The Media’s Weird Love Affair With Glenn Beck

Is anyone in the media not talking about Glenn Beck? It’s clear we here at Mediaite certainly spend a lot of time doing so, but it would appear the rest of the world is catching up. Are they ever. Just take my morning media consumption as an example.

First, Jon Stewart’s much-talked about “epic” parody of Beck on his show last night, which I actually didn’t find that funny, primarily because, as I’ve said before, Beck is really the only person who can do justice to Beck’s unpredictable theater/buffoonery. But I digress. This was followed (in real life, also) by Stephen Colbert’s utterly terrific and hysterical takedown of Beck’s recent, controversial advice to churchgoers (video below). When was the last time anyone warranted a Comedy Central double-hitter, as it were?

Then I came across a random Peggy Noonan reference to Beck in her column this week (she’s long thought him insane). Then there’s Matea Gold’s feature on Bill O’Reilly in this week-end’s LA Times, much of which pivots on O’Reilly in relation to Beck. Meanwhile, I caught Gail Collins on Brian Lehrer’s WNYC talk show, during which Lehrer made reference to Beck in terms of health care reform voters.

The topper, however, has to be this article, which was chatted to me earlier, about how Glenn Beck is the Lady Gaga of cable news. Admittedly, I did remark to a colleague a few days ago how awesome it would have been if Gaga’s telephone hairdo had been replaced with the Mao phone!

So! What’s the conclusion here beyond the fact Glenn Beck is certainly very zeitgeisty? I wrote back in January that is was starting to look like Beck was being taken seriously by the mainstream media. And I think that’s probably true to some extent — ratings talk. But I also suspect Beck has two viewerships: the people who watch him and take what he says to heart (and although that generates great ratings, it’s still a relatively small slice of the population…about 3 million on average), and the media “elites,” who I am starting to suspect are secretly a bit in love with him.

I use the word love loosely (obviously) but there’s definitely an emerging general recognition on the part of the media that he is a genius at what he does (we mock because we love!). But also because he is by far the best content provider out there. The fact very few people in the media would admit to agreeing to his views appears to be taking a backseat to the chalkboard/Mao phone phenomenon. Something which became clear during Beck’s interview with Eric Massa one journalist on my twitter feed noted that it would be a good time for burglars to target journalists houses since every one of them was watching the “tickle fight” spectacle. There’s something to that. Beck has captivated the media as much (or more!) than he has the country at large — the 5pm time slot also jibes well with office hours — and I suspect a lot of his recent success, and the increasingly frequent mention of his name in mainstream places may be as much the result of that fascination as it is the result of Beck’s mass appeal.

Video of Colbert’s spot below. In my opinion, so much funnier than Stewart, specifically because he wasn’t trying to be Beck. Also, best line: “Jesus was a trustafarian…you just knew is dad was loaded.”

Related: Your Moment[s] of Glenn

Bill O’Reilly On Glenn Beck: “It Takes The Heat Off Me”

Is Bill O’Reilly softening as others on Fox News go more partisan or attack stronger?

It’s a case made today by the Los Angeles TimesMatea Gold, who talked to the longtime cable news ratings leader about his role at the network – and Glenn Beck.

The subhead asks, “In a time of political turmoil, can the Fox News commentator be seen as a moderate?”

O’Reilly’s executive producer, Amy Sohnen, isn’t so convinced. “Some of the conversations are still heated, but you may not see the vein explode anymore,” she said.

O’Reilly had a lot to say about Beck (who also weighed in on the 8pmET host).

“More power to him, man,” said O’Reilly, casually propping his foot up against the edge of his desk. “It takes the heat off me. I tell him, ‘Be as crazy as you want.’ ”

“I like Beck; I understand exactly what he’s doing,” he added. “He genuinely feels the country is in bad shape. I think guys like that deserve a voice.”

And Beck had this to say: “I realized I’m just a human meat shield for the guy. He’s all of a sudden the senior statesman,” adding O’Reilly “has been so gracious.”

The kinder, gentler O’Reilly may be a bit of an exaggeration. The FNC host still has his targets – Tom Hanks, we’re looking at you – and he frequently cuts down the left-wing mainstream media. But Mediaite’s Managing Editor Colby Hall noted the softer approach to political interviews just yesterday – and it’s why he suggested Pres. Obama should enter the No-Spin Zone back in September.

Still viewers of his FNC program may not have seen the moderate voice as frequently as those who saw him popping up on ABC or The Daily Show, where he plays more to the center. The shift may be that center-leaning O’Reilly shows up more on Fox News as well.

The recent column by Howard Kurtz about potential FNC infighting over Beck came up, with O’Reilly clearly showing where he stands. “What am I supposed to do, hate Glenn Beck because he’s successful?” he asked. “That’s what they do in Hollywood. I’m a New Yorker.”

One other interesting aside by Gold indicated some at FNC did have problems with something Beck did – but something O’Reilly did as well. “Network executives weren’t thrilled, reportedly concerned that it promoted the two personalities rather than Fox News,” wrote Gold of the “Bold And Fresh Tour” the duo went on together. So while Beck provides the cover, O’Reilly can appear more moderate while retaining the best ratings on all of cable news. It’s a strategy that works for all sides.

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Bill O’Reilly: Warning! You Can’t Keep Kids Away From Lady Gaga (So Here’s Her Latest Video)

Tonight on The Factor: Bill O’Reilly, Margaret Hoover and Greta Carlson discuss the vulgarity of Lady Gaga and how it is impossible to shield your children from her latest hit, “Telephone.” This is of course accompanied by a good two minutes of footage from the controversial video. Hey, CNN told us on Sunday that MTV wouldn’t show you Gaga writhing around wearing nothing but safety-tape (though as it turns out, no problem there!) but Fox News has no qualms about it…to prove a point about its inappropriateness, of course.

Really the creepiest imagery in this entire segment is the mental picture of Carlson watching the 10-minute porntasm with her dad.

Did Bill O’Reilly Go Soft In His Interview With Janet Napolitano?

Bret Baier’s interview with President Obama wasn’t the only intersection of Fox News and the White House yesterday; Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano appeared on The O’Reilly Factor last night as well. And where the Baier/Obama sit-down was at times contentions, Bill O’Reilly was remarkably nice in interrogating the individual with whom he has vocally criticized, particularly during the Christmas Terrorism scare of three months ago.

It isn’t a surprise really – O’Reilly is no longer the flame thrower that he was when he was coming up during the later years of the Clinton administration, and hasn’t been for years. Candidly, its hard to tell if O’Reilly has become more moderate or there are just more extreme examples of the form, but that is a post for another day.

The polite and respectful tone with which Napolitano was treated is completely consistent with O’Reilly’s modus operandi; he is, after all, a self-described traditionalist. And treated elected officials (and cabinet members at the highest level) with respect and decorum is a tradition that O’Reilly has always followed. But its instructive that O’Reilly played so nice with Napolitano on the day that Obama appeared on Fox News with another host. Perhaps he was demonstrating to the current administration just how he would play with the president – not soft, but respectful and courteous in tone.

The great hope here is that Obama and his staff see the virtues of going on The Factor; its something that we recommended to the president back in September. In fact, one can only wonder where we would be with the current Health Care debate had the White House chosen to engage with Fox News, instead of developing an inimical relationship with the dominant cable news outlet.

John Stossel Takes On Bottled Water Industry And “Silly Lefties” Who Fight It

John Stossel is possibly the most eccentric figure on Fox News, which, in a constellation that includes Glenn Beck and Griff Jenkins (obscure but completely bizarre), is not an easy feat. But he hasn’t accomplished it based on personality traits– his dedication to finding highly useful information on under-the-radar public interest stories is unparalleled in the industry.

As noted before, his take on the problems facing the nation has becoming essential to the national political discourse not just because of his opinions, but because he covers problems that many other commentators are too busy following issue trends to find. On his weekly visit to The O’Reilly Factor last night, he chose to tackle every living person’s most important concern: water consumption.

Stossel took time out of fighting big government policies in Cleveland– a new cause he has taken up with Drew Carey over at his Fox Business show– to discuss the recent release of the documentary Tapped, an in-depth look at the bottled water industry that argues there is little difference between tap and bottled water and the packaging of the latter creates major health complications for consumers. Stossel gave Bill O’Reilly his take on both the statistics in the movie and the bottled water industry itself. Turns out Stossel is a fan of tap water, but that doesn’t mean he’s going to buy into “nonsense” claims by “silly lefties who attack industry” that bottled water can cause a number of grave diseases, like cancer and liver disease. He also doesn’t believe the statistic that 40% of bottled water actually comes from the tap.

What he does believe is that bottled water is neither better tasting nor better for you than tap water. “We’ve done all kinds of taste tests; tap water almost always wins,” he said, though admitting his wife makes him buy bottled water against his preference. He also made the point that the price of bottled water is, compared to other commodities like gasoline, extremely high– in fact, bottled water costs more per ounce at a gas station than the gas itself.

As for O’Reilly’s personal bottled water consumption habits, Stossel had this analysis: “You are being scammed, but you can afford it!”

Check out the clip from last night’s Factor below:

Brit Hume On Obama Going On FNC: “He Doesn’t Have Health Care Votes”

Yesterday we reported that President Barack Obama is taking a new and unique route to rally support for Health Care reform – he’s talking to Fox News. In an “extended, exclusive” interview tonight, he will sit down with Special Report anchor Bret Baier to make his health care reform pitch to the FNC audience. Last night, Fox News analyst Brit Hume seconded many of our suspicions when he claimed on the O’Reilly Factor that the reason Obama was going on FNC was because he didn’t yet have the votes to pass health care.

Hume is partly correct in his presumption of the motivation behind Obama’s appearance on Fox News. But stated another way is this: no other media outlet has has worked as effectively to undermine the administration’s efforts to build a consensus after Health Care Reform as the very powerful opinion arm of Fox News.

We laud Obama for going on Fox News, but wonder if its too little, too late. We stated back in September that the smartest thing Obama could have done was to appear on the O’Reilly Factor. Instead we saw a trumped up dispute between the White House and Fox News that, while eventually was resolved, appeared to fall in the favor of not just Fox News, but opponents of the White House Health Care agenda. Again reminding us why we believe that Roger Ailes is the most powerful political person in America.

Rove Accuses Tom Hanks Of Drinking, Smoking, Hollywood Liberal, Eating

Okay, at this point you have to start wondering if Tom Hanks is looking for a fight. We could give him the whole Fox News in Italy thing as a one-off joke, and it even seemed like Bill O’Reilly was picking on the actor/director for personal reasons. But then Hanks had to go off on Karl Rove and his new book? Well, what did you expect to happen on The O’Reilly Factor tonight?

You notice how O’Reilly and Rove always preface their slams by noting how good of an actor/director Tom Hanks is? Maybe next time Hanks wants to go on an anti-Fox tear, he should return the courtesy. Just so he doesn’t look like he’s smoking too much of his liberal Hollywood dope (with Sean Penn) to remember that it’s best to sandwich your criticism in-between compliments.