There are few things on the Huffington Post that I agree with, and I think Arianna herself is as vicious as they come, but she and her website deserve credit for the fair treatment they delivered about what was possibly Glenn Beck's most disappointing show. Although the headline seemed to blame Beck in part for "trainwreck TV", the article was much more balanced:
"It literally keeps me awake at night," he said. "Glenn, I have had people come to me, union leaders -- and I'm a union guy and I know you're not -- who look at me and said, 'If you don't support this health care bill, I will not contribute to your campaign'. Glenn that's a bribe."
Even Beck wasn't buying it, pointing out that what Massa was talking about was, in fact, just lobbying.
Beck did all he could to lower his audience's expectations at the beginning of the show, telling them he had guests lined up in case Massa was a disaster. Which he was, despite Beck's best efforts to stop the former congressman from tap-dancing all over the set.
The Fox News host seemed completely and utterly un-amused. And towards the end, he grew a bit hostile. "America, I've got to shoot straight with you," he said. "I think I've wasted your time. I think this is the first time I have wasted an hour of your time. And I apologize for that."
Before the interview, a skeptical Beck wrote on his trademark chalkboard that there are three questions the viewer should ask after the interview: 1) Is there anything new to his charges of corruption, 2) Do you believe him, and if so does it affect you, and 3) Do you believe what he says about himself. Beck interrogated him hard, and when Massa started to waffle or obfuscate, Beck wouldn't let him squirm away.
Despite the fact that Beck announced he didn't know what the outcome would be, having guests lined up, and conducting a dogged interview with tough questions, Salon did what the The Huffington Post resisted--they churned out a hatchet job with the headline, "Unprepared Fox host fails to get ex-congressman to provide evidence for the wild charges he's been throwing around."
He wasn't exactly unprepared. O'Reilly's about the toughest interview around, and Beck would have given him a run for his money. Bill's never called anyone an "evil bastard":
MASSA: I didn't. I did nothing sexual. I did things that were wrong. I should not have allowed myself to be that familiar with my staff.
BECK: Got it. And you did nothing criminal?
MASSA: No, no, no.
BECK: OK. If you -- if you say that and it comes out and, you know -- whisper campaigns are whisper campaigns. But if it comes out, you're one of the most evil bastards I've ever met. If you -- if you can say that and look at somebody in the eye and --
MASSA: So be it.
Beck kept on him like that during the entire interview, but Salon was unimpressed.
As Salon's Mike Madden put it on Twitter, "Beck's lesson: conspiracy theories much easier to spin without bothering to 'interview' people who would 'know something' about the 'facts.'"
Salon doesn't mention that one of Beck's "conspiracy theories" was that Van Jones was a communist. Yet Van Jones himself said he was:
Jones had planned to move to Washington, DC, and had already landed a job and an apartment there. But in jail, he said, "I met all these young radical people of color -- I mean really radical, communists and anarchists. And it was, like, 'This is what I need to be a part of.'" Although he already had a plane ticket, he decided to stay in San Francisco. "I spent the next ten years of my life working with a lot of those people I met in jail, trying to be a revolutionary." In the months that followed, he let go of any lingering thoughts that he might fit in with the status quo. "I was a rowdy nationalist on April 28th, and then the verdicts came down on April 29th," he said. "By August, I was a communist."
Conspiracy theory? It's Van Jones own words! Maybe Salon didn't catch the interview Beck did with Debra Medina, a popular Tea Party candidate who Beck destroyed on his radio show for being a 9/11 Truther.
GLENN: I have when I said that I was going to have you on, you can't imagine the mail pro and con that I received. There was a theme that ran against you and that is you are a 9/11 Truther.
GLENN: Right. Here's then let me be more frank and ask you the question: Do you believe the government was any way involved with the bringing down of the World Trade Centers on 9/11?
GLENN: I think the people of America might think that might be a yes.
GLENN: Do you have advisors that advise you or people that are around you that are 9/11 Truthers?
GLENN: Would you, if you found out that there were, would you disavow them like the president should have but I mean, he escorted them out in the middle of the night. Van Jones was a 9/11 Truther. If you found out that people around you are advising you were 9/11 Truthers, would you disavow them or allow them to continue to advise you?
Medina refused to answer the question, and Beck politely thanked her for the interview, got off the phone, and mocked her.
GLENN: While I don't endorse anyone, I think I can write her off the list. Let me take another look at Kay Bailey Hutchison if I have to. Rick [Perry], I think you and I could French kiss right now....Wow, that's the fastest way back to four percent [approval rating]...Holy Cow.
And while some liberals still cling to the myth that Beck claimed there were FEMA camps that would be used to imprison Americans in an emergency, nevertheless he said they didn't exist and debunked their existence on his show. Again, the Huffington Post reported accurately on that:
On his show Monday, Glenn Beck enlisted the help of Popular Mechanics to debunk an internet rumor that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) operates concentration camps in the United States.
Ironically, Beck is more clear eyed and provides a bigger service than almost anyone in journalism. Do you think Larry King or Anderson Cooper would have stayed on Massa like Beck did? Beck is on a crusade to fight corruption, no matter which side of the aisle it is on. How many other news figures are doing that?