While Glenn Beck's second book about American politics, "An Inconvenient Book," debuted on Nov. 20 as the New York Times nonfiction best seller, the conservative Mormon talk-show host experienced the paradox of his popularity when the book sold out nationally and publisher Simon & Schuster Inc. wrote IOUs for about 10 days while it rushed up to nine more printings for immediate distribution.
None of that seemed to matter to Beck (http://www.glennbeck.com/) or his 800 fans who gathered hastily at a Deseret Book store in Midvale, Utah the morning before the Salt Lake City performance on Dec. 8 of his annual one-man Christmas-production tour. He is the host of his self-named daily CNN Headline News program and nationally syndicated radio program. He publishes the monthly political comedy magazine, Fusion. His stage shows tour the United States twice a year. ABC Television just added him as a contributor to its "Good Morning America" program. And, he's a frequent visitor to Utah.
All of which puts him squarely under the lens of media watchdog groups like Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. Certainly, his books, magazine, television and radio programs, performances and other public statements would show us his true colors. One man can't chatter that much with tipping his hand.
In January, GLAAD leaders thought they found the smoking gun.
Actually, they didn't do much work to uncover the truth; he broadcast it for them. Beck described news reports about actor Isaiah Washington calling another actor a "faggot," something that almost every news source in the nation including The Advocate, San Francisco Chronicle and Entertainment Tonight — and GLAAD itself — described, too. But, GLAAD leaders called out Beck.
Beck said soon after that "It is a hate-filled word. It's an ugly word. It's a word that no one should ever be called. We as Americans — gay, straight, left, right, black, white — we have more in common than we have that separate us. I wish GLAAD would focus their energies and attention on condemning true hate speech, true discrimination, true bigotry, and not on people who are simply and honestly trying to have a conversation about the appropriateness of a word in a news story."
If that's the worst proof GLAAD has found out about Beck, maybe what else he says about us isn't so bad.
After Iran President Ahmadinejad claimed in September that his nation doesn't "have homosexuals like in your country," Beck responded angrily that Iran executes its gay and lesbian citizens and said that "If [President George W. Bush] was condoning a law that says you could kill a homosexual for being homosexual, he would be the biggest hatemonger alive and there would be people from the left marching in the streets like gangbusters. And, you know what? I'd join them! I have homosexual friends. Just because you're a conservative doesn't mean you hate people who are different than you."
Beck responded also by inviting Iranian Queer Organization
(http://www.irqo.net/) Executive Director Arsham Parsi to discuss being gay in Iran and its torture of gay Iranians. "Okay. I'm going to show you pictures here, America, and this — I want you to know this is the lashing of two of [Parsi's] friends. These pictures were taken a month after they were beaten, so you can imagine how severe this beating was. Now, there is also a picture — a few pictures here of people being hung. Please know that this is not stuff you want your kids to see. I just want you to see the truth of what's happening in Iran and, again, ask where are all the special interests speaking out?
Let me ask an honest question: Where is the Gay and Lesbian Alliance [sic]? I know that life here in America is far from perfect, but compared to life in Iran, actually America is kind of perfect. I mean, we're not murdering homosexuals in the streets. And, if some nut job does it, we arrest them. Why am I doing your job for you? I say you better speak up sooner or forever hold your peace. Otherwise, you're going to be left with the truth of your silence, and that is that you're nothing but a political machine to help politicians get elected. And, that's a shame. Really, you should be ashamed of yourselves."
Earlier that month, Beck responded to the stereotypes that were described nationally after the arrest of U.S. Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, at the Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport. "I don't see it as a gay issue. I mean, I know gay people. I don't think my gay friends are in rest stops or in airport bathrooms just hooking up for a quickie with a guy in the next stall. That's not a gay issue. That's a scumbag issue. I don't want him around because I don't want somebody who's hooking up with people, gay or straight, in bathrooms."
But, Craig's arrest wasn't the first time Beck was quick to distinguish gay Americans from their infamous hangers on. In September 2006, he described how "The cover of this week's issue of 'New York'
magazine has a picture of [New Jersey Gov. Jim] McGreevey on it, along with the headline, 'Confessions of the Gay Governor.' To me, that just means nobody in the media actually remembers or cares about the real story with this guy. Take out his sexual preference and even the fact that he was a governor, just for a second. When someone who has a wife in the hospital nursing his three-day-old newborn has adulterous sex with his employee, they're a scumbag."
This blunt description, came just two months after Beck made the ultimate assessment of gay Americans. "All right. I want to know, as a gay man … it must be a sweet life. Listen to me, and I mean this sincerely. If it wasn't for the icky sex thing, I'd be gay in a heartbeat."
With ideas like these, could Beck be the first popular conservative to deal with gay Americans and issues fairly, or are popular liberals who do little else but pander to us slower to see us as families and friends, not just votes and dollars? Maybe both. While we wait for the others to catch up to him, Beck is teaching millions by example. For now, he might be our best national voice for equality.