Glenn Beck: 'I Played a Role ... in Helping Tear the Country Apart'

Reuters

Glenn Beck has reflected on his time at Fox News, and now says he's sorry for parts of it. "I remember it as an awful lot of fun and that I made an awful lot of mistakes, and I wish I could go back and be more uniting in my language,” he told Megyn Kelly. “I think I played a role, unfortunately, in helping tear the country apart."

Indeed, he did.

Under Roger Ailes at Fox News, and later at his subscriber-only television network, Beck exposed millions of Americans to inane, alarmist conspiracy theories, fueling paranoia in his most vulnerable viewers and upping the anxiety of countless grandparents. I hope that Ailes stays alive and healthy for many years to come. But if he dies in a just world, every obituary will include a paragraph about how he dramatically expanded Beck's influence, along with a video embed, because otherwise no one will believe that Beck's show included segments like this (skip to 1:10):

Is Beck's newfound regret earnest, or "the latest example of a master showman reinventing and repackaging himself for the times," Matt Lewis wonders at The Week, where he presents a case against forgiving the showman's many transgressions:

One problem with letting bygones be bygones is that it provides a disincentive for future good behavior. It basically says that someone can cater to the lowest common denominator, help tear the country apart for years, and then—when it's convenient—wash their hands of the past, reinventing themselves as a statesman. Don't get me wrong, I'm not for harboring personal grudges (it hurts the person holding the grudge the most), and yes—sometimes people do change—but I'm also a believer in incentives. And I think how we collectively respond to something like this might impact how future showmen conduct themselves in the public square.

 Agreed.

There are, however, circumstances in which I would forgive Beck, both because I believe the possibility of redemption should always be offered, and for utilitarian reasons. What would suggest contrition and serve America is if Beck came fully clean. If he revisits all the work he has done in his current incarnation, corrects the factual errors that he broadcast, explains the tactics of emotional manipulation and demagoguery that he used, and explains why he and network higher-ups were willing to broadcast so much misinformation to the American people?

Then I'd welcome him back into polite company. But I suspect my pledge won't ever be tested.

Conor Friedersdorf is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he focuses on politics and national affairs. He lives in Venice, California, and is the founding editor of The Best of Journalism, a newsletter devoted to exceptional nonfiction.


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