Fox News personality Glenn Beck says he did not plan Saturday’s event in Washington, D.C. to coincide with the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech. Yet still, his detractors remain unconvinced.
Beck’s recent, frequent analogies between the civil rights movement and the right-wing protest groups known as the tea parties would seem to lead skeptical viewers to think otherwise.
In truth, the two eras and movements could not be more different: a point the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence wants to drive home. The activist group, which advocates greater study of gun violence and enhanced efforts to limit it, pieced together a video that contrasts clips of Dr. King’s legendary speech with interviews of Beck fans at Saturday’s event.
Asked about the summary of southern rocker and NRA board member Ted Nugent’s immigration platform (“Remember the Alamo? Shoot ‘em!” he said, speaking to the NRA in 2005), several event attendees enthusiastically agreed.
“I am for Americans getting shoulder-to-sounder, gun in hand and drivin’ south,” one woman cheered.
“No, that’s good,” another man said, disagreeing with the cameraman’s assessment that the idea of shooting illegal immigrants is “crazy.”
“If they’re crossing the line they’re breaking the law,” he continued, suggesting immigrants go somewhere else, “like Germany.”
“If you cross the border you’re dead,” he said.
Beck insisted his event was a-political and encouraged attendees to avoid carrying signs. He did, however, feature former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as one of his speakers, along with other conservative figures.
Considering that tens of thousands attended Saturday’s gathering, it’s not fair to say the ideas of a few represent those of many — but to those familiar with Beck’s brand of proselytizing, the presence of some extremely fringe personalities at Saturday’s event should not be surprising.
The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence is made up of advocates for social justice, whom Beck frequently castigates as being of a secretly nefarious ideology. In the recent past the group has attended other right-wing rallies and interviewed attendees, quizzing them on their knowledge of the issues being protested.
At the Second Amendment March on Washington, D.C. this past April, the coalition found that some attendees would give them completely false information when asked about President Obama’s gun control policies. All of the respondents were convinced that the president has a secret plan to take their firearms, or had already set that plan into motion.
In fact, President Obama and congressional Democrats have largely spurned the gun control issue, Reason magazine explained.
In terms of actual policy, rather than his previous record, Obama is a long way from being anti-gun. This is not because he has fond memories of sitting in a deer stand as a lad in Hawaii or of talking shotguns with Dick Cheney. It’s because his mother didn’t raise a fool.
Like some other Democrats, he may recall that in 1994, after banning “assault weapons,” they lost the House for the first time in 40 years. Obama knows that anyone who staunchly favors banning guns won’t vote Republican no matter what. But some independents who are protective of their weapons may vote Democratic if that issue is off the table.
Off the table is exactly where he intends to keep it. Last year, 65 House Democrats wrote Holder vowing to “actively oppose” any effort to restore the assault weapons ban. The president has enough trouble getting legislation that enjoys overwhelming support in his party. He is not about to pick a fight with centrist Democrats over gun control.
Since taking office, the president has signed legislation that allowed concealed weapons in national parks and in luggage on trains. He has taken no steps toward rolling gun rights back. Still, disinformation about the president’s actions and stated agenda, on gun rights and dozens of other issues, remains a constant among the disjointed tea party groups.
Nugent, who also spoke at Beck’s event on Saturday, found himself the recent target of fresh controversy after he thanked a crowd in Dubuque, Iowa for being “white.”
Ã¢â‚¬Å“ThereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a lot of white people in this crowd Ã¢â‚¬â€ I like that!” he said. “[Dubuque] is a white town.”
Dubuque’s community newspaper, the Telegraph Herald, noted that the audience roared in approval.
“The crowd — not just a few fans here and there — cheered. [...] “People who attend performances, whether they are stand-up comics or musicians or the like, might expect some political comments to be interjected during a show. But Nugent’s remarks crossed the line.”
The paper called the whole display “an outrage and embarrassment.”
Nugent also recently claimed during a radio interview that he’s convinced the president is a “muslim operative.”
“He says heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a Christian so he can continue with his jihad of a America-destroying policies,” the right-wing rocker insisted.
His presence at Saturday’s supposedly a-political rally was not made into an issue by any mainstream media outlet. Chances are Nugent was also pleased by the turnout in D.C., which was characterized by The Washington Post as “overwhelmingly white” and “conservative.”
Beck insisted his gathering was aimed at “reclaiming” the civil rights movement by “honoring character” over skin color. However, the Fox News personality has accused the president of harboring a “deep seated hatred for white people” and suggested that Obama’s meeting with former BP CEO Tony Hayward was delayed because the president did not want to meet with a white man.
He’s since backed away from at least one of his racist jabs at Obama, calling his verbal assault “poorly said.”
Beck has never publicly advocated violence against illegal immigrants.