Muslim-American groups protest ABC hiring of Glenn Beck

by Alia Malek, Columbia Journalism Review

ABC was apparently so impressed with Glenn Beck's appearances on Good Morning America, that it decided to hire him as a regular commentator on the show.

After all, it was the somewhat cleaned-up Beck that GMA viewers were treated to last November, when the show invited him and an imam to discuss the Pope's first visit to a Muslim nation, Turkey. The specific subject: the Pope's ill-advised quoting of a Byzantine emperor's less-than-positive views on Islam (his troops kept losing to Muslim warriors) and whether the Pope's trip to Turkey would "heal" the tensions or "make matters worse."

Beck offered the following gem: "I believe that it is important to look evil in the eye and crush it."

The GMA-friendly Beck made perfunctory comments about Islam being a "beautiful religion" and conceded there were "good Muslims" out there. But those more familiar with his body of work know that, when it comes to things Muslim and Arab, Beck is, to put it diplomatically, ill-informed. Interviewing Keith Ellison in November--the Minnesota Congressman is the first Muslim elected to the House of Representatives, and an African-American whose ancestors were slaves--Beck challenged him to "prove to me that you are not working with our enemies" because he is Muslim.

In September, Beck warned that, "All you Muslims who have sat on your frickin' hands the whole time and have not been marching in the streets and have not been saying, 'Hey, you know what? There are good Muslims and bad Muslims; we need to be the first ones in the recruitment office lining up to shoot the bad Muslims in the head,'" would be rounded up and placed behind "razor wire."

So of course Beck's agenda at GMA will include, that's right -- Islam in America.

ABC no doubt would like to see its morning show catch up with NBC's Today show, the ratings leader, whose formula is built on feel-good stories, celebrities, useful information about grooming needs, and regular folk overcoming fill-in-the-blank barriers before finding fill-in-the-blank success. So it is curious that ABC thinks the way to woo Today's audience is to race bait.

But ABC sees Beck differently. "Glenn is a leading cultural commentator with a distinct voice," says Jim Murphy, senior executive producer of GMA.

Unfortunately for ABC, the groups, about whom Beck's distinct voice can often be heard pontificating, are balking. In addition to launching membership action campaigns, the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), and the Arab-American Institute (AAI) have all sent a joint letter to ABC expressing their dismay, urging ABC to reconsider this hiring decision, and requesting a meeting with executives at ABC.

The groups wrote that: "Beck has consistently fueled his commentary with vitriol and falsehoods aimed at stirring resentment towards Arabs and Muslims. His addition to [GMA]would disseminate his prejudiced, openly-hostile and ignorant commentary ... and diminish the credibility of your ... news show. To provide a platform for his hateful speech is dangerous and irresponsible."

According to AAI's director of communication, Jenn Kaufman, as of yet, ABC has yet to grant the groups a meeting with executives, though it promised a call from a senior producer of GMA, who Kaufman says did call earlier this week. "But this needs to be addressed with the executive leadership of ABC; hiring Beck is a decision much larger than GMA."

Asked why she thought they might get a meeting with the execs at ABC, Kaufman said, "GLAAD got a meeting after the Grey's Anatomy star made homophobic comments. This is just as important and serious a matter."

article originally published at

The media's job is to interest the public in the public interest. -John Dewey