Fox's Glenn Beck increasingly sets media's agenda

Fox News' Glenn Beck has made no secret of his desire to influence the stories other news outlets cover, at one point boasting that a story on his program about ACORN would divert the media's attention from health care reform. In recent months, Beck has successfully pushed into the mainstream stories about ACORN; the April 15 and September 12 tea parties; White House “czars” Van Jones, Mark Lloyd, and Cass Sunstein; and the National Endowment for the Arts.

ACORN videos

September 9: Beck says “things change” tomorrow due to video on ACORN. During his Fox News program, Beck previewed an “exclusive” that would air on his program the next day, which he claimed would make “things change a lot for those in power.” Beck later aired snippets of a video of conservative activist and filmmaker James O'Keefe and columnist Hannah Giles going into ACORN's Baltimore office and, in O'Keefe's words, “posing the most ridiculous criminal scenario we could think of and seeing if they would comply -- which they did without hesitation.” Beck suggested the video was the “exclusive stuff” that he predicted the media would be “talking about” instead of health care. On September 10, Fox News aired numerous segments on the ACORN video, portions of which it often aired. Beck himself devoted his September 10 show to the first tape.

O'Reilly: ACORN story “driven by Fox News almost entirely.” On his September 18 program, Bill O'Reilly, in declaring that “Fox News and talk radio are now setting the [national] conversation,” said that the ACORN “story is driven by Fox News almost entirely.” During the September 21 edition (retrieved from Nexis) of Fox News' Special Report, senior correspondent Eric Shawn said that “Fox News first broke the story about the tapes.”

Media widely credit Beck and Fox News for proliferation of ACORN news and controversy. Media outlets have widely credited Fox News and Beck for spurring the widely covered controversy over ACORN:

  • In his September 17 profile of Beck, Time magazine's David Von Drehle wrote that Beck “is having an impact. ... On Sept. 14 the Senate overwhelmingly voted to cut off all federal funds to ACORN, and the U.S. Census Bureau severed its ties to the organization. This followed Beck's masterly promotion of a series of videos made by two guerrilla filmmakers who posed as a pimp and prostitute while visiting ACORN offices around the country. The helpful community organizers were taped offering advice on tax evasion and setting up brothels for underage girls.”
  • In a September 21 blog post, U.S. News & World Report contributing editor Peter Roff wrote that ACORN was “brought to the public's attention by's Andrew Breitbart and Fox News Channel's Glenn Beck.”
  • Washington Post ombudsman Andrew Alexander criticized the newspaper on September 20 for “tardiness” in covering the ACORN videotape controversy, arguing that newspapers should pay more attention to right-wing media outlets and that the Post's purportedly slow reaction to the ACORN story is related to institutional liberal bias. Alexander, referencing Beck, claimed that while “Fox News, joined by right-leaning talk radio and bloggers, often hypes stories to apocalyptic proportions while casting competitors as too liberal or too lazy to report the truth,” in the case of ACORN, Fox News was “pumping” a “legitimate” story.
  • The Los Angeles Times wrote on September 19 that the recent “appearance of the videos last week on a Fox News program set off a furor. The U.S. House voted this week to deny all federal funds for ACORN, while state lawmakers in California, Georgia and Minnesota called for investigations or a cutoff of state funds.”
  • On the September 17 edition of NPR's Morning Edition, reporter Pam Fessler said that if “you watch cable TV at all this week, you've almost certainly seen the [ACORN] images again and again” and reported that Beck has been “leading the charge” against ACORN.
  • In a September 16 World News report, ABC News senior White House correspondent Jake Tapper said, “Republicans have long opposed ACORN's politics and methods. Last year, they attacked the president and his campaign for ties to the group. Those allegations didn't stick, but these videos, shown frequently on Fox News Channel, seem to constitute a tipping point.”
  • In their September 15 article about conservative media's “success” in pushing certain “stories into the mainstream,” the Politico's Michael Calderone and Mike Allen wrote that Beck has “aggressively pushed the Van Jones and ACORN stories. [...] Last week, Big Government, a site run by conservative Andrew Breitbart, showed videos of undercover stings in three ACORN offices, where journalists posing as pimps and prostitutes were instructed by employees on how to skirt legal restrictions on housing.”

April 15 Tea Parties

Fox News promotes, takes ownership of “FNC Tax Day Tea Parties.” In the lead-up to the April 15 tea parties, which Fox News repeatedly described as “FNC Tax Day Tea Parties,” Fox News frequently aired segments publicizing and encouraging viewers to get involved with the protests. A Media Matters for America study found that from April 6 to April 13, Fox News featured at least 20 segments on the tea party protests, and a subsequent Media Matters study found that from April 6 to April 15, Fox News aired at least 107 commercial promotions for its coverage of the April 15 tea parties.

Beck reportedly spoke at San Antonio Tax Day Tea Party. On his April 8 radio show, Beck said he was “going to do a fundraiser for” the organizers of the April 15 San Antonio tea party. Beck said that he “heard it's like $500 a plate or something like that” and that he would speak at the luncheon. Beck later announced he would not serve as the keynote speaker for the San Antonio tea party rally, as he had originally intended, but Beck reportedly still headlined a fundraising luncheon for the tea party organizers on April 15.

Beck and other Fox News hosts reported live from “Tax Day Tea Parties.” On April 15, Fox News hosts Beck, Neil Cavuto, Sean Hannity, and Greta Van Susteren each provided live coverage from the sites of separate tea parties across the country.

Dozens of media outlets cover tea parties, note Beck and Fox News' role in driving protests. After the April 15 tea parties, dozens of local and national media outlets covered the April 15 protests and many noted that Fox News and Beck were driving forces behind the tea parties. CNN and Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz remarked: “I don't think I've ever seen a news network throw its weight behind a protest like we are seeing in the past few weeks with Fox and these tea parties.”

9-12 Tea Parties

Beck started 9-12 Project, whose members helped to organize 9-12 protests. On March 13, Beck announced the launch of his 9-12 Project, whose members helped organize and turn out participants to the 9-12 protest. The Dallas Morning News reported on September 12 that "[o]rganizers say the 9/12 movement began with Fox News television personality Glenn Beck 'to help remind us of where we were after the attacks on 9/11/2001,' said Michael Gallops of the Rowlett Tea Party."

Fox News promotes 9-12 tea parties. Fox News heavily promoted the 9-12 tea party in Washington, D.C., and the Tea Party Express tour -- whose last stop was on September 12 in Washington -- on Fox News, Fox Business, the Fox Nation, and

Beck broadcasted live on 9-12. Beck broadcasted a special edition of his television show live from 1 to 3 p.m. ET on Fox News on Saturday, September 12.

Networks again follow Fox News' lead in covering protests. While Fox News claimed that media outlets “missed” the story of the 9-12 protests, as notes, “those other networks were there” at the 9-12 protests. Kurtz wrote in The Washington Post that “the other networks indeed covered the protest, which -- like similar demonstrations across the country -- were heavily promoted by Fox, especially talk show host Glenn Beck. ... ABC, for instance, covered it Saturday and Sunday on 'Good Morning America' and Sunday on 'World News,' along with extensive reports by ABC Radio and the network's Web site. NBC covered it Saturday on 'Nightly News' and the next morning on 'Today.' CBS covered it on the 'Evening News.' CNN covered the Saturday protests during the 10 a.m., 11 a.m., 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. hours, as well as on other programs afterward. Correspondents such as NBC's Tom Costello, ABC's Kate Snow and CBS's Nancy Cordes were involved in the coverage.”

“Czars” witch hunt: Van Jones

Beck led the charge against Van Jones. Beck led the charge of attacks against White House green jobs adviser Van Jones. In attacking Jones, Beck falsely accused him of being a “convicted felon ... who spent, I think, six months in prison after the Rodney King beating”; asked if “we want communists in the United States government as special advisers to the president?”; and claimed that Jones' place in the Obama administration “says that the president has an agenda that is radical, revolutionary, and in some cases, Marxist.” Many of Beck's attacks on Jones occurred after -- a group co-founded by Jones -- initiated a campaign calling on Beck's Fox News advertisers to stop sponsoring his show. The campaign came in response to Beck's claim -- which has been echoed among some conservatives -- that Obama is a “racist” who “has a deep-seeded hatred for white people.”

Media credit Beck for “keeping the” Van Jones “story alive.” Numerous media outlets credited Beck with Jones' resignation and subsequent stories about Jones:

  • In his September 17 profile of Beck, Time's Von Drehle wrote that another example of Beck's " “impact” was that "[a]long with St. Louis, Mo., blogger Jim Hoft, whose site is called Gateway Pundit, Beck pushed one of Obama's so-called czars, Van Jones, to resign during Labor Day weekend."
  • The conservative website American Thinker wrote on September 21, “If not for Glenn Beck and Fox News, no one would know that Van Jones was a self avowed communist advising the President.”
  • During the September 20 edition of CNN's Reliable Sources, Washington Post staff writer Chris Cillizza said that the Jones and ACORN stories “suggest we better pay attention” to what Beck and Hannity are reporting “because they have power.”
  • On the September 12 edition of Fox News Watch, National Review editor Rich Lowry said: “And let me say this about Glenn Beck, the Van Jones thing wouldn't have come out without him. If this were a Republican administration, and you were exposing people in that administration with an extremist background, he would be a hero of muckraking journalism. Instead, he's being reviled as a modern-day McCarthyite.”
  • In his September 9 Chicago Tribune column, Clarence Page wrote of Beck and Jones:

Score one for the right wing. Conservative witch hunters, notably Fox News' Glenn Beck, are claiming victory for hounding President Barack Obama's green jobs czar out of office. Yet the victory also highlights a gaping deficit in America's conservative movement. They've become more adept in recent years at trashing liberal ideas than at coming up with some new ones of their own.

Van Jones, a San Francisco Bay Area activist for environment-friendly “green-collar” industries, resigned as the president's special adviser for environmental jobs after weeks of mud slung against him by Beck and other conservative media pundits. Jones' credentials are outstanding, but these are politically polarized times. At a time when nervous parents were threatening to pull their children out of school, for example, ironically to avoid hearing Obama speak about the value of education, the outspokenly progressive Jones hardly had a chance.

  • On the September 8 edition of his syndicated radio program, CNN's Lou Dobbs said that Van Jones “became an issue because Beck and Fox had the guts to stand up.” Dobbs' guest, conservative media critic Brent Bozell, replied, “No question about it at all. They started it. Glenn Beck started it.” Dobbs and Bozell then discussed how Dobbs and CNN “covered” Jones “before he resigned.”
  • The New York Times wrote on September 6, “Chief among those keeping the story alive was Glenn Beck, the conservative host of a Fox News Channel program. Mr. Beck began criticizing Mr. Jones in July, first in segments on his syndicated talk radio show and then, on July 23, on his Fox News program, said Christopher Balfe, the president of Mr. Beck's production company.” The Times also wrote that following an advertiser boycott led by “Color of Change, an activist group co-founded by Mr. Jones four years ago ... Beck devoted more time to Mr. Jones's past remarks.”
  • The Politico's Ben Smith and Nia-Malika Henderson wrote on September 6 that Beck “has rocketed to a status as de facto leader of the opposition. ... [A]s soon as the ensuing controversy began to bleed over onto the websites of ABC News, POLITICO, and other quarters of the mainstream media, the administration appeared to stop defending Jones.” The Politico added that Jones' “resignation, in turn, confirmed Beck's stature as the administration's most potent foe.”
  • Time's Michael Scherer wrote on September 6 that Jones' “resignation also adds another wrinkle in the ongoing battle between Glenn Beck ... and various progressive groups that have organizing [sic] a boycott against his show. ... [I]t would appear that Beck has won a round in this sideshow spat. His ratings on Fox are up, though his show is now sponsored not by major brand name products.”

“Czars” witch hunt: Mark Lloyd

Beck targets Mark Lloyd. Beck has frequently targeted FCC chief diversity officer Mark Lloyd, who has been mentioned (according to a Nexis search) on at least 10 of Beck's Fox News programs since August 14. Beck wrote to followers of his Twitter page on September 3, “Find everything you can on Cass Sunstein, Mark Lloyd and Carol Browner.”

Media source Lloyd criticisms back to Beck. Media outlets and figures have sourced criticism of Lloyd back to Beck. For instance:

  • The Washington Times' Amanda Carpenter claimed in a September 23 article that in “a video clip of the [June 2008 conference on media reform] that has been aired by Fox News personality Glenn Beck and others, Mr. Lloyd seems be siding with the anti-American leader against independent media outlets in his own country, some of which supported a short-lived coup against Mr. Chavez in 2002.” Carpenter added that "[m]any of the remarks have been unearthed by conservative-leaning writers and bloggers and discussed on cable television amid a broader critique of Mr. Obama's penchant for czars that exploded with the ouster this month of 'green jobs czar' Van Jones."
  • The Wall Street Journal's Susan Davis wrote in a September 17 Washington Wire blog post that “Lloyd has been the target of criticism from conservatives in the media including Rush Limbaugh and Fox's Glenn Beck.”
  • CNBC and BET contributor Keith Boykin wrote a September 9 article titled, “Glenn Beck's new target: Mark Lloyd.”

Media increase attention on Lloyd. Following Beck's numerous attacks on Lloyd, several media figures and outlets have focused attention or attacks on Lloyd:

  • On the September 21 edition of his radio program, Dobbs criticized “radical left-winger” Lloyd, who he “cannot believe” is in Washington. On the September 8 edition of his CNN program, Dobbs aired a report about Lloyd by correspondent Lisa Sylvester. From CNN's transcript of the segment:

SYLVESTER: FOX News anchor Glenn Beck was the first to criticize Jones. This after a group co-founded by Jones the “Color of Change” tried to lead a boycott of Beck's TV sponsors. The Van Jones controversy has led to new scrutiny of other Obama appointees. Among them, Mark Lloyd, recently named as chief diversity officer of the Federal Communications Commission. In 2008, Lloyd made these comments at a media reform conference in which he appears to praise leftist leader Hugo Chavez.

MARK LLOYD, FCC CHIEF DIVERSITY OFFICER: (INAUDIBLE) Chavez really had an incredible revolution (INAUDIBLE) saying we're going to have (INAUDIBLE).

SYLVESTER: Conservative radio show hosts like Rush Limbaugh have also narrowed in on Lloyd for a report he co-authored for the liberal think tank the Center for American Progress, in which he argues that commercial private radio shows that aren't diverse enough should pay a fee to public broadcasters. Lloyd in a statement to CNN defended himself saying quote, “The point I was trying to make was that there was dramatic social change in places like Rwanda and Venezuela and that media played an important part in that. I'm not a Chavez supporter. I do not support any political leader other than the president of the United States. I do believe all Americans would benefit from more opportunities to participate in media and that the answer to ugly speech is not censorship but more speech.”


SYLVESTER: Mark Lloyd, who worked at CNN in the 1980's, also has the title of associate general counsel at the FCC in addition to chief diversity officer and like President Obama's czars, he does not have to go before the Senate for confirmation. The only individuals who need congressional approval at the FCC are the commissioners -- Lou.

DOBBS: Lisa, when you talk about diversity, so that we might be clear, Mark Lloyd isn't talking about ethnic, racial or religious diversity. He's talking about more liberals on the air.

SYLVESTER: That's absolutely right and when you look at this paper that he co-authored at the Center for American Progress, a very liberal think tank in this town, it's very clear that what he wants to do is to go after some of these conservative broadcasters and try to essentially give a leg up to more liberal voices out there.

DOBBS: In other words, he wants to turn the market upside down and supplant the market with government fiat.

SYLVESTER: That's what some of the concerns are, Lou.

Like Fox News, Dobbs has also downplayed the use of czars during the Bush administration.

  • The Hill wrote on September 17 of a “dust-up” over Lloyd:

The dust-up comes as controversy swirls around another FCC hire. Mark Lloyd, the newly appointed chief diversity officer, used to be a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and, while there, wrote a paper on ways the FCC could encourage more voices on talk radio by imposing new regulations on the industry.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), as well as some conservative radio personalities, raised concerns that Lloyd's hiring indicated that the agency would change rules pertaining to local stations' licenses and could bring back the Fairness Doctrine, an abandoned policy that required stations to give equal time to differing political views.

  • The Wall Street Journal ran a September 11 article headlined, “FCC Official Comes Under Fire for Past Statements.” The WSJ also wrote an article headlined, “Role of White House Czars Sparks Battle,” and wrote of Lloyd:

Other appointees are coming under fire from conservative commentators for positions they have taken in the past. Mark Lloyd, who held the midlevel position of chief diversity officer at the Federal Communications Commission, has been critical of corporate-owned media. Cass Sunstein, a former Harvard Law professor picked to oversee government regulations within the Office of Management and Budget, won Senate confirmation Thursday after a months-long tussle. Mr. Sunstein has made the case for granting legal rights to domestic animals and clamping down on hunting.Messrs. Lloyd and Sunstein, through their offices, declined to comment.

  • Jay Ambrose wrote in a September 5 Washington Times column -- headlined, “Chavez comes to the FCC” -- that "[i]f for a moment you thought the Obama administration was going to sit there placidly while some on talk radio were so bold as to criticize its actions, think again, because here comes Mark Lloyd, the new diversity officer of the Federal Communications Commission and a man with a mission. It's not a pretty mission, not if you value free speech, but it is a mission made clear by Mr. Lloyd's own words."
  • In an August 31 editorial, Investor's Business Daily (IBD) claimed that “Lloyd, a disciple of Saul Alinsky and fan of Hugo Chavez, wants to destroy talk radio and says free speech is a distraction.” IBD later wrote that Beck did “yeoman work” on Lloyd:

Fox News host Glenn Beck has done yeoman work in exposing this threat posed by Mr. Lloyd. He points out that in his 2006 book, “Prologue to a Farce: Communication and Democracy in America,” Lloyd wrote: “It should be clear by now that my focus here is not freedom of speech or the press. ... This freedom is all too often an exaggeration. ... At the very least, blind references to freedom of speech or the press serve as a distraction from the critical examination of other communications policies.”

“Czars” witch hunt: Cass Sunstein

Beck, Fox News, go after Sunstein with false smears. Beck has falsely claimed that Cass Sunstein, who was confirmed to head the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, has said “you must be an organ donor” and “you should not be able to remove rats from your home if it causes them any pain.” Beck has labeled Sunstein the “most dangerous czar.” Fox News reporter James Rosen also distorted Sunstein's writings about organ donation and animal rights. In fact, Sunstein advocated for reforms to the organ donation system, but not for mandatory donation, and he did not advocate against rat removal. Beck and Fox News have regularly gone after Sunstein, who is a frequent target of attacks in the media.

Media note Beck's influence in pushing attacks against Sunstein. Several media outlets have noted Beck's role in proliferating attacks against Sunstein:

  • The Times of London's Daniel Finkelstein wrote on September 16 that as Sunstein's Senate “confirmation process continued, the attacks started. The 'outspoken' (a polite word for loudmouth) conservative television commentator, Glenn Beck, laid into Professor Sunstein for being, of all things, 'an animal rights nut'. Other conservatives joined in.”
  • In a September 14 article, the Los Angeles Times wrote of Beck and Sunstein:

In recent weeks, commentators such as Beck have portrayed Sunstein, a Harvard law professor, as a radical, citing, for example, his past speeches and articles advocating animal rights as evidence that he opposed gun rights. More mainstream groups such as the National Rifle Assn. and the American Conservative Union joined the opposition against Sunstein.

Citing the base's demand for ideological purity, [conservative writer David] Frum said: “I believe Republican senators cast votes [on Sunstein] that they really didn't want to cast.”

One leading conservative Republican senator, Jim DeMint of South Carolina, said in an interview over the weekend that he decided to oppose Sunstein after hundreds of calls from constituents demanding a “no” vote due to Sunstein's “extreme views.”

Asked to say which of Sunstein's views he considered extreme, DeMint could not answer. A DeMint spokesman later said, echoing the arguments of Beck and others, that his boss objected to the fact that Sunstein had once called for a ban on hunting and to his past statements on the legal rights of animals.

  • The Washington Independent's David Weigel wrote on September 9 that Beck “has attacked the man he calls 'Regulatory Czar Cass Sunstein' on no fewer than 12 episodes of his Fox News show” and that some conservative fans of Sunstein are “critical of Beck and other Sunstein critics.”
  • The Chicago Tribune's Mark Silva wrote on September 9 that Beck “has picked on Sunstein a number of times. ... Beck, who likes to twist the words of people who are expert in their fields to fit his definition of a dangerous radical, can turn his verbal guns on some of the other 'czars.' ”
  • Newsweek's Katie Connolly wrote in a September 9 blog post that "[i]nitially, conservatives were broadly supportive of Sunstein's nomination, appreciating the libertarian bent of some of his writings," but Beck began mobilizing against Sunstein:

In the hands of fringe bloggers, this notion turned into a false accusation that Sunstein advocated for granting government the permission to forcibly remove organs. Although this claim has been roundly rejected, by conservatives and liberals alike, it has a “death panel”-type potency and refuses to subside.

Enter Glenn Beck. The Fox News host is waging a war against Obama's “czars.” He believes creating czars is a way of circumventing Congress and granting power to unelected officials. Never mind that the office Sunstein would head is not a new creation of the Obama administration: it has been in existence since 1980. He hardly qualifies as a “czar.” But Beck has him in his sights. Recently he urged fans, via his Twitter feed, to collect and save all the information they could find about Sunstein; yesterday he warned that the Democrats would lose the vote on the nomination, and suggested they are afraid of Beck fans. Beck's objections are gaining traction, evidenced by the emergence of a new Web site called Stop Sunstein. Sponsored by the American Conservative Union, the site features a home page screaming, “President Barack Obama has nominated Cass Sunstein, a radical anti-gun, anti-hunting, animal rights law professor to be his 'regulatory czar,' ” alongside images of fake newspapers declaring “Guns Banned,” “Hunting Banned,” and “FCC Pulls Plug on Limbaugh.” The page blazes with out-of-context quotes that make Sunstein look quite loopy.

Beck may have picked the wrong battle here, though. Sunstein retains significant support from conservative intellectuals, and his statements aren't nearly as damaging as those of Van Jones. And the Office of Management and Budget, which will oversee Sunstein's office, isn't really the sort of place to be concerned with animal-rights policy. Regardless, Beck is making life uncomfortable for Sunstein, proving once again that his voice echoes resoundingly in D.C.

NEA and Yosi Sergant

Beck repeatedly promotes allegations against NEA, Sergant, and Wicks. Beck has promoted allegations -- originally made on Breitbart's and promoted on conservative blogs -- that the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and spokesman Yosi Sergant are “creating a propaganda machine for the president of the United States.” Beck also pushed allegations about White House employee Buffy Wicks “leading” an NEA conference call to tie ACORN to the Obama administration.

September 10: Sergant reassigned. ABC News' Yunji de Nies reported on September 10 that "[l]ast week, FOX News' Glenn Beck spent a solid amount of airtime blasting Yosi Sergant -- then-National Endowment for the Arts' spokesman -- accusing him and his agency for using government tax dollars to create propaganda for the Obama Administration. Today, the NEA says Sergant has been reassigned." The Huffington Post's Ryan Grim wrote that “the move represents a significant step down and was the result of the controversy.” Grim added:

Beck attacked Sergant and the NEA on his Fox News talk show, accusing the agency of propaganda efforts similar to those used by Nazi Germany. And now Sergant has been tossed overboard, making him Beck's second victim in his campaign to rid the administration of perceived radicals, socialists, communists, fascists, anarchists and all other manner of nefarious influences.

Perhaps not coincidentally, both Sergant and Van Jones -- Beck's first takedown -- have roots in on-the-ground organizing and were tightly connected with the grassroots progressive community.

Following Fox News, media cover NEA story. On the September 22 edition of his CNN program, Dobbs advanced attacks on the White House, stating that there are "[n]ew concerns tonight that the Obama administration may be politicizing the arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, encouraging groups to produce art work promoting the president's agenda -- that according to Senator John Cornyn. Senator Cornyn in a letter to the president detailed concerns of a California artist who said that an NEA conference call encouraged artists to focus works on issues such as health care, education, and the environment, promoting the White House political agenda." George Will wrote in his September 17 Washington Post column that the controversy shows “the Obama administration's incontinent lust to politicize everything [emphasis in original].”

The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Politico, and ABC News also covered the White House's issuing of new guidelines that, as the Times wrote, “instructed government agencies to keep politics away from the awarding of federal grants, a step taken as the administration sought to minimize the fallout after an official at the National Endowment for the Arts urged artists to advance President Obama's agenda.”