On September 11, Glenn Beck stated that only he and BigGovernment.com's Andrew Breitbart have “been calling for” an investigation into the National Endowment for the Arts' August 10 conference call -- during which Beck claims “they,” presumably the Obama administration, used the NEA “to buy propaganda for the president.” Since then, numerous right-wing media figures, including the Washington Times editorial board, have followed Beck's lead and called for an investigation into the NEA despite the fact that the transcript of the conference call contains no evidence of illegal electioneering or lobbying by government officials.
Beck asks, where are the calls for “investigations into the National Endowment for the Arts?”
Beck: Only Breitbart and myself have “been calling for” investigation into NEA. From the September 11 edition of Fox News' Glenn Beck:
BECK: Number of Democrats, if I have one, the number of Democrats calling for investigations into ACORN, but that one was John Conyers, but he called it off.
So, the number of Democrats asking, yes, there it is -- zero! How is that possible? How about the number of investigations into Van Jones? No idea. Number of investigations into Cass Sunstein? Let's just push him through, why not?
Number of investigations into the National Endowment for the Arts? Remember I told you this story? And they were using the National Endowment for the Arts to buy propaganda for the president? Yeah. I think the only one that I know that's been calling for it is me and Andrew Breitbart. [Fox News' Glenn Beck, 9/11/09]
Beck on NEA story: “The one that you need to start asking questions on is Valerie Jarrett.” Beck stated, “First they moved Yosi Sergant. That's the guy who put this thing together, or so we thought. First they moved him, and now he's resigned. Now he's out of the NEA. But Yosi Sergant, just like Van Jones, not the target. The one that you need to start asking questions on is Valerie Jarrett, because Valerie Jarrett, we have the audio, Valerie Jarrett is the one that Buffy [Wicks, deputy director of the White House Office of Public Engagement] was working for. Buffy, the propaganda slayer.” [The Glenn Beck Program, 9/25/09]
Right-wing media answer Beck's call
Wash. Times: "[F]ull investigation" is the “only way” to settle story. In a September 27 editorial, The Washington Times stated that "[a] full investigation by both Congress and the NEA inspector general is the only way to bring this story to a close." A September 14 Washington Times editorial stated that “when you add in the nearly $2 million the NEA handed out to those very arts organizations in the four months before the conference call -- including more than $1 million in stimulus funds -- it is time to start wondering whether a line has been crossed from merely unethical into the land of special prosecutors. Such an investigation might be the only way to get straight answers.”
Ari David: “I would unleash Congressional hearings” on all officials involved in NEA call. In a BigHollywood.com post, David asked, "[W]hat would Ari David do about the NEA and ACORN scandals" if he were in Congress, adding, “I would unleash Congressional hearings on ACORN and hearings on all of the government officials involved in the NEA propaganda conference call.” David further wrote, “The public hearings I would hold on the NEA scandal would have all the players involved testify under oath. This would include Valerie Jarrett, Rahm Emanuel, Buffy Wicks, Yosi Sergeant [sic] and many others. As we say in Hollywood, it would star a cast of thousands.” [BigHollywood.com, 9/26/09]
Ben Shapiro: “We need a full Congressional investigation.” In a BigHollywood.com post, Shaprio alleged that government involvement in the conference call is “in blatant violation of the Anti-Lobbying Act,” and stated, “Every government employee involved in this conference call should be fined and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. We need a full Congressional investigation -- we already know that it infects members of the White House staff, including Buffy Wicks.” [BigHollywood.com, 9/21/09]
Andy McCarthy: If this happened under Bush, “there would already be congressional hearings.” In a post for National Review Online's The Corner, McCarthy wrote of the NEA call, “Needless to say, if something like this happened during the Bush administration, there would already be congressional hearings and screams for the appointment of a special prosecutor. We're about to see (yet again) how serious the Pelosi/Reid Democrats are about all that 'rule of law' stuff they spout.” [National Review Online, 9/21/09]
Powerline blog: "[A]t a minimum an investigation is in order." John Hinderaker wrote of the NEA conference call, “It would take a thorough knowledge of the facts and more legal research than I've had time for to draw a conclusion as to whether the White House or NEA violated the law in connection with the artist outreach, but at a minimum an investigation is in order.” [Powerline, 9/21/09]
Claims NEA broke the law are baseless
Following coverage by Beck, media conservatives baselessly claim NEA broke laws. Advancing Beck's and Breitbart's aggressive promotion of the conference call, Fox News' Gretchen Carlson and conservative columnist Ben Shapiro have alleged that the NEA broke laws against lobbying and electioneering during the secretly taped call. In fact, the transcript of the conference call released by Breitbart's website contains no evidence of illegal electioneering or lobbying by government officials.
Beck increasingly sets media's agenda
Following Beck, media cover NEA story, as well as stories on ACORN, tea parties, and czars. After Beck repeatedly promoted allegations against the NEA and Yosi Sergant was demoted, media figures including CNN's Lou Dobbs and Washington Post columnist George Will covered the story. 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.” In addition to the story about the NEA, in recent months, Beck has successfully pushed into the mainstream stories about ACORN; the April 15 and September 12 tea parties; and White House “czars” Van Jones, Mark Lloyd, and Cass Sunstein.