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Profile: Joel Cheatwood

Joel Cheatwood was a participant or observer in the following events:

Glenn Beck.Glenn Beck. [Source: New York Times]The New York Times profiles Fox News talk show host Glenn Beck, describing him as a “rising star” and “one of the most powerful media voices for the nation’s conservative anger.” Beck’s show typically draws about 2.3 million viewers, putting him third among all cable news hosts behind fellow Fox conservatives Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity. Beck describes himself as identifying with Howard Beale, the mad “television prophet” of the 1976 film Network, and particularly Beale’s most famous line, “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore.” [New York Times, 3/29/2009] (Media pundit Eric Boehlert calls Beck’s attempt to associate himself with Beale “nonsense,” and observes: “Beale’s unvarnished on-air rants… targeted conformity, corporate conglomerates, and the propaganda power of television.… Beale’s attacks were not political or partisan. Beck, by contrast, unleashes his anger against, and whips up dark scenarios about, the new president of the United States. Big difference.”) [Media Matters, 4/7/2009]
Apocalyptic Rhetoric - Though he insists he believes every word he says on his TV show as well as on his daily radio broadcast, Beck also calls himself a “rodeo clown” and an “entertainer” who reminds his listeners, “If you take what I say as gospel, you’re an idiot.” (Beck is a former morning show disc jockey who regularly performs stand-up comedy in shows around the country.) The Times writes that Beck “is capturing the feelings of an alienated class of Americans.” He regularly preaches against liberal politicians, hosts segments entitled “Constitution Under Attack” and “Economic Apocalypse,” and sometimes bursts into tears. [New York Times, 3/29/2009] Progressive media watchdog site Media Matters will note in a later article that Beck regularly terms President Obama a Marxist, a socialist, and/or a fascist. [Media Matters, 4/7/2009] In a recent week-long segment titled “War Games,” Beck advocated for armed citizen militias to overthrow the government (see February 20, 2009), though he later denied such advocacy. America is “on the road to socialism,” he tells his viewers, and claims, “God and religion are under attack in the US.” He recently accused the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) of setting up “concentration camps” for citizen dissenters, presumably conservatives. He has accused the Obama administration of trying to “indoctrinate… your child into community service through the federal government” [Media Matters, 3/27/2009] , says America is about to go through “depression and revolution” [Media Matters, 2/13/2009] , and, three days after the Times article is published, compares the administration’s actions to those in “the early days of Adolf Hitler.” [Media Matters, 4/1/2009] He will accuse the government of being what he calls “a heroin pusher using smiley-faced fascism to grow the nanny state.” [Media Matters, 3/31/2009]
Voice of the 'Disenfranchised' - Phil Griffin, the president of Fox News cable rival MSNBC, says of Beck: “That’s good dramatic television. That’s who Glenn Beck is.” Tom Rosenstiel, the director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism, says: “There are absolutely historical precedents for what is happening with Beck. There was a lot of radio evangelism during the Depression. People were frustrated and frightened. There are a lot of scary parallels now.” Conservative writer David Frum calls Beck’s success “a product of the collapse of conservatism as an organized political force, and the rise of conservatism as an alienated cultural sensibility.” Beck’s shows are “for people who feel they belong to an embattled minority that is disenfranchised and cut off,” Frum adds. Fox News senior vice president Joel Cheatwood says Beck’s audience is “somewhat disenfranchised,” and adds, “[I]t’s a huge audience.” Author and media professor Jeffrey Jones says that Beck engages in “inciting rhetoric. People hear their values are under attack and they get worried. It becomes an opportunity for them to stand up and do something.” Beck denies inciting attacks on the government or any other citizens, saying that those “who are spreading the garbage that I’m stirring up a revolution haven’t watched the show.” Fellow talk show host Bill Maher recently accused Beck of producing “the same kind of talking” that led Timothy McVeigh to bomb a federal building in 1995 (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995); Beck responded by saying in part: “Let me be clear. If someone tries to harm another person in the name of the Constitution or the ‘truth’ behind 9/11 or anything else, they are just as dangerous and crazy as those we don’t seem to recognize anymore, who kill in the name of Allah.” [New York Times, 3/29/2009] (The Times does not publish Beck’s next line: “There are enemies both foreign and domestic in America tonight. Call it fearmongering or call it the truth.”) [Media Matters, 4/7/2009] He describes himself as having to “be… the guy I don’t want to be—the guy saying things that are sometimes pretty scary, but nobody else is willing to say them.” Currently Beck is the voice of the “We Surround Them” movement (see March 3, 2009) and is part of the “Tea Party” or “teabaggers” civil protest project (see April 8, 2009). [New York Times, 3/29/2009]

Entity Tags: Glenn Beck, David Frum, Eric Boehlert, Tom Rosenstiel, Bill Maher, New York Times, Jeffrey Jones, Phil Griffin, Fox News, Media Matters, Joel Cheatwood

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda

Jewish leaders meet privately with Fox News chief executive Roger Ailes to complain about the repeated anti-Semitism of Fox talk show host Glenn Beck. Simon Greer, the head of Jewish Funds for Justice, tells Ailes and Fox News senior vice president Joel Cheatwood that he was disturbed when Beck, on his broadcasts, compared his worldview to that of the Nazis and accused him of trying to create American “death camps”; Ailes and Cheatwood agree that Beck went too far and promise to discuss the matter with him. Two days later, Greer will receive a handwritten note from Beck that reads: “Please know that I understand the sensitivity and sacred nature of this dark chapter in Human History. Thank you for your candor and helpful thoughts.” Greer has said Beck “has a history of recklessly invoking Nazi Germany and the Holocaust in order to advance his political agenda,” a statement bolstered by research from the Washington Post. However, Beck has been praised by some Jewish figures for his support of Israel. Cheatwood later disagrees with Greer, saying neither he nor Ailes said Beck had crossed any lines, and adds, “We absolutely stood behind Glenn Beck 1,000 percent.” [Yahoo! News, 8/3/2010]

Entity Tags: Glenn Beck, Fox News, Simon Greer, Roger Ailes, Joel Cheatwood, Jewish Funds for Justice

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda

Within hours of Fox News host Glenn Beck’s first broadcast during his three-day tirade against Jewish philanthropist and financier George Soros (see November 9-11, 2010 and After), Jewish organizations begin condemning his remarks. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) accuses Beck of anti-Semitism. ADL president Abraham Foxman, a Holocaust survivor, recalls living with a Catholic nanny during the Holocaust and says: “Look, I spit on Jews when I was six years old. Does that make me an anti-Semite?” The issue of the Holocaust, Foxman says, “is so sensitive that I’m not even sure Holocaust survivors themselves are willing to make such judgments. For a political commentator or entertainer to have the audacity to say, ‘There’s a Jewish boy sending Jews to death camps,’ that’s horrific. It’s totally off limits and over the top.” Beck is speaking “either out of total ignorance or total insensitivity,” Foxman says, and adds in a statement: “While I, too, may disagree with many of Soros’s views and analysis on the issues, to bring in this kind of innuendo about his past is unacceptable. To hold a young boy responsible for what was going on around him during the Holocaust as part of a larger effort to denigrate the man is repugnant. The Holocaust was a horrific time, and many people had to make excruciating choices to ensure their survival. George Soros has been forthright about his childhood experiences and his family’s history, and there the matter should rest.” Elan Steinberg of the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Their Descendants calls the Beck accusations “monstrous; you don’t make such accusations without proof, and I have seen no such proof.” Beck’s accusations, Steinberg says, “go to the heart of the instrumentalization and trivialization of the Holocaust.” Simon Greer, president of the Jewish Funds for Justice, says that Beck’s comments “made a mockery of their professed understanding. In an effort to demonize a political opponent, Beck and Fox News scurrilously attacked George Soros, a prominent Jewish philanthropist and Holocaust survivor. No one who truly understands ‘the sensitivity and sacred nature’ of the Holocaust would deliberately and grotesquely mis-characterize the experience of a 13-year-old Jew in Nazi-occupied Hungary whose father hid him with a non-Jewish family to keep him alive.” Interfaith Alliance head C. Welton Gaddy says Beck’s “use of the Holocaust to discredit George Soros is beyond repugnant. The Holocaust is one of history’s most tragic events and those who survived it are owed our enduring respect.” [The Jewish Week, 11/11/2010; Salon, 11/11/2010] The ADL’s Foxman has previously lauded Beck as a “strong… friend of Israel.” [KMIR, 11/13/2010] Jewish columnist J.J. Goldberg writes, “There’s a difference between first-degree murder and vehicular homicide, which is intentionality.” Goldberg isn’t convinced that Beck intended to attack Jews, but he calls Beck’s three-day attack on Soros “as close as I’ve heard on mainstream television to fascism.” [Daily Beast, 11/11/2010] Jewish columnist M.J. Rosenberg writes that Beck’s series on Soros is “so anti-Semitic” that it has convinced him a Holocaust could happen in the United States. “I am not saying Beck is anti-Semitic,” he says. “I think he is so utterly ignorant of Jewish history and the history of Germany 1933-1945 that he is unaware of what he is doing.” [Raw Story, 11/11/2010] Jonathan Tobin, the editor of the neoconservative Commentary magazine, has criticized Soros before. But Tobin now writes: “Beck is in no position to pontificate about the conduct of Holocaust survivors and should refrain from even commenting about this subject.… Such topics really must be off-limits, even in the take-no-prisoners world of contemporary punditry.… There is much to criticize about George Soros’s career, and his current political activities are troubling. But Beck’s denunciation of him is marred by ignorance and offensive innuendo. Instead of providing sharp insight into a shady character, all Beck has done is further muddy the waters and undermine his own credibility as a commentator.” [Christian Science Monitor, 11/13/2010]
Fox Defends Beck - Fox News stands by Beck’s attack on Soros, with senior vice president Joel Cheatwood saying in a statement that the “information regarding Mr. Soros’s experiences growing up were taken directly from his writings and from interviews given by him to the media, and no negative opinion was offered as to his actions as a child.” [New York Times, 11/11/2010]
Beck's References to Holocaust and Nazi Germany Source of Concern - Greer and two rabbis met with Fox News executives in July to discuss Beck’s “constant and often inappropriate invocation of the Holocaust and Nazi Germany on the air” (see July 26, 2010). [The Jewish Week, 11/11/2010] Greer accuses Beck and Fox News of “mak[ing] a mockery of their commitment to me and two rabbis” by airing the attack on Soros, and defends Soros as committed to the Jewish faith. Greer writes that he will again complain to Fox News executives about Beck’s behavior. [Jewish Journal, 11/11/2010]
Beck Attempting to Tarnish Soros as a Democratic Contributor? - James Besser, writing for The Jewish Week, asks: “Why is Soros important to the far right? Could it be because he is a major contributor to Democratic causes, and because they are trying to make his money radioactive to their political adversaries?” [The Jewish Week, 11/11/2010]

Entity Tags: Glenn Beck, James Besser, Anti-Defamation League, C. Welton Gaddy, Fox News, Elan Steinberg, George Soros, Simon Greer, Joel Cheatwood, Abraham Foxman, Jonathan Tobin, J.J. Goldberg, M.J. Rosenberg

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda

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