Before writing about Glenn Beck’s hiring as a commentator for ABC’s Good Morning America, which now has certain Arab groups engaged in active protest, I should offer a disclaimer. I have done some writing in the past couple of years for Beck (specifically for Fusion), spoken to him in person, and appeared on his syndicated radio show.

Beck is one of the nicest, most congenial personalities I’ve ever met. Some say that he’s evil. I didn’t see it. Glenn must have left his devil horns and red pitchfork at home that morning.

If that disclaimer doesn’t say unbiased, nothing does. I have not, however, been paid, nor encouraged to write, this commentary ” and you’ll see why soon enough.

At any rate, Beck’s nightly television show on CNN Headline News, which is approaching a year on the air, is a breath of fresh air in the evening. I’ve visited with some of the writing and production crew for the show and nowhere will you find a more talented staff of folks, and that all comes through on the air.

The television show is different “ in a good way. When I first saw Beck’s TV show, it reminded me of a trippy composite of Meet the Press, The Late Show with David Letterman, Saturday Night Live, and Firing Line. It’s nice to watch a news-oriented program that doesn’t consist of a couple of people yelling at each other. The light-hearted approach to the news is why the show became the fastest growing cable news program.

Inevitably, whenever you find a star on the rise, you’ll find somebody trying to shoot it down. Beck has devoted many of his programs to highlighting the dangers posed by radical Islam, and this has, for some reason, angered people who would define themselves as non-radical Islam.

I have to admit, when I heard that Glenn was getting more and more into highlighting the dangers posed by radical Islam, I said uh oh. My concern, oddly enough, had little to do with what was being discussed and more to do with Beck as an entertainer, which is, after all, why so many are catching on to his programs.

During a November interview, Beck asked Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison, the first Muslim member of Congress, to prove to me that you are not working with our enemies.

Beck said the question/statement was poorly worded, but Arab activists are now, of course, lobbying ABC to let Beck go as a commentator.

After this story began to spread, Beck said this:

My message is clear: Islam is a peaceful religion for over 90 percent of the world’s Muslims, he said. I have urged viewers repeatedly to understand this, while asking all of the proud, peaceful Muslims here in America to take a more visible role in our fight against those who make a mockery of the Quran. I also make airtime available, at any time, to any Muslim organization to help reinforce this realistic, peaceful view of Islam.

I’ll bet my last dollar that Glenn Beck, not to mention others, regularly receive ironic death threats from self-proclaimed peace-lovers. After all, there’s a reason that gaining entrance to the Time-Warner building or Radio City is about as easy as getting into the White House.

Glenn and his staff have produced some fantastic exposes about the threat posed by radical Islam. Ratings for Glenn Beck on CNN Headline News have doubled since the program’s premiere. My only fear is that all this will be a distraction and cause Beck to lose focus on why so many of us becamefans years back. In other words, this is all dangerously close getting a little too serious for my taste.

True, rising stars cast angry shadows while at the same time offering big bright targets. The key is to keep moving upward. If Beck spends too much time engaging his detractors and parsing comments, the comedic focus of his programs will give way to caddy pissing matches and “no, this is what I really meant to say” monologues.

There will be all sorts of groups constantly lobbying against Beck. This happens even more when part of your game is humor. Every joke has a butt, and nobody wants to be an ass. This, however, is the nature of the beast. What to do? Ignore them, move on, and keep being funny.

It’s the fun, light-hearted and comical approach to the news that makes Beck’s shows fun to watch. This is his element. I hope Beck can make his points concerning radical Islam, perhaps even using one of the more effective daggers in history ” humor “ and subsequently move on and leave those necessary serious chores to somebody less equipped to entertain.


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