Once again, a controversial media personality has come under fire for statements he made on his radio show. This time, however, he is facing legal action as a result.
Glenn Beck and his network, are being sued for defamation. Abdulrahman Alharbi, a Saudi student, was questioned by the FBI after the Boston Marathon bombings, and had his apartment searched by agents. After investigation, Alharbi was publicly cleared and termed only a witness. But Beck was not happy with this.
Even after Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was captured, and his brother Tamerlan killed in a police shootout, Beck still claimed Alharbi was involved in the bombing. An avowed libertarian who continually preaches distrust of government, Beck was playing into people’s fear and paranoia in the hours and days after the bombing. “The government has not come clean, nor has really any of the mainstream media,” Beck said on his show that day. “Now the government is out-and-out lying to you. They are engaging in a disinformation campaign to discredit and destroy … But we do know that he was involved … For this guy to be at the scene of the crime and the hospital and not involved?”
Mr. Alharbi was in the hospital because he was a victim of the bombing.
“Beck … repeatedly questioned the motives of federal officials in failing to pursue or detain Alharbi and repeatedly and falsely accused Mr. Alharbi of being a criminal who had funded the attacks that took place at the Boston marathon,” his suit says. “Those statements were made widely and publicly. The statements were false and caused grave injury to the plaintiff.”
Alharbi is seeking damages and lawyers’ fees from Beck, alleging that “Alharbi’s reputation has been substantially and severely damaged” and he has been accused of being a “murderer” a “child killer” and a terrorist by people who formed their opinions based on Beck’s statements.
This is not the first time we have had issues with things said by Mr. Beck.
Back in May, we wrote about and condemned Beck’s habitual insistence on persistently comparing politicians and policies he dislikes to the Nazis and the Holocaust.
We wrote then: “Beck’s use of such imagery is wrong and of great disrespect to the memory of the victims of the Holocaust. Through that image, and his subsequent defense of that decision, he is actually sending a subtle message to his millions of listeners that the Nazis may have been bad, but not all that terrible …. It is time for Beck and the various other pundits on both sides of the political aisle to show real respect to the victims and survivors of the Holocaust by undertaking to avoid all insinuations that in any way can be interpreted as trivializing the murder of the six million.”
But he continues to conflate what happened to the Kedoshim in Europe with petty, almost insignificant things he dislikes about the Obama administration.
Just this week, Beck took issue with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for publishing a children’s book that uses animal characters to help parents and grandparents educate their children about healthy eating habits. He immediately compared it to a book that the Nazi government published, which also employed animal characters to teach children to distrust and hate Jews.
That is unacceptable; there are ways to express discomfort with things of this nature without making a comparison that minimizes what the Nazis did. There is no realm of reality wherein a book about nutrition can immediately be connected to Hitler’s propaganda machine.
It is wrong. It is hurtful. And it is shameful.
The problem is not confined to Beck alone. Another well-known talk radio show host once again proved his animus for our community when he launched into a diatribe surrounding the atzeres tefillah held in lower Manhattan. Engaging in what can be called nothing more than vitriolic hyperbole, this radio host referred to us, by virtue of our strongly held religious values, as “psychologically damaged.” This same personality also dedicated time over a few days to expressing how it is his belief that our holy traditions of bris milah are “barbaric.”
There is a simple explanation for this behavior. Talk show hosts, and all media personalities, for that matter, have their success measured by how many people “tune in” to them. Accuracy and decency do not play as much into that as shock value and showmanship.
Beck, despite his character flaws, is a very smart man. He knows and understands that, and he has worked within that reality to build himself up from a simple radio host to the owner of a company that earns him over $90 million annually. As long as he stands to profit monetarily from the way he conducts himself, he has no reason to change.
We hope that Abdulrahman Alharbi is successful in his suit, and Mr. Beck finally begins to understand that the words he speaks have consequences. Perhaps a large monetary judgment or a similar settlement will finally accomplish what all the condemnations in the world could not. Maybe then Beck, and other self-styled pundits on either end of the political spectrum, will think twice about the rhetoric they employ and the real-world costs that they may have.