Former Fox News Channel host and conspiracy theorist Glenn Beck told an audience on Thursday that he regrets that he has spent the last several years dividing people. According to the Associated Press, Beck's remarks came as he accepted a First Amendment Award from "Talkers" magazine, which bills itself as "the Bible of Talk Radio."
Without going into specifics during his acceptance speech, Beck lamented setting people "at each other's throats" and said, "For any role that I have played in dividing" the country, "I wish I can take them back. I don't wish I could take back the truth that was spoken but perhaps - not perhaps - many times I could have said it differently."
The one-time FM radio shock jock and host of a short-lived show on CNN's Headline News network brought a batch of unusual props with him to the Talkers convention, a Nazi-era school manual, a napkin soaked with what are purportedly Hitler's bloodstains and a Quran, which he included to show his support of Americans' right to express opinions contrary to his own beliefs.
In his acceptance remarks, Beck condemned activists who organize the kind of boycotts that got him driven off of the Fox News Channel. Advertisers fled Beck's Fox show in droves after the inflammatory talker accused President Barack Obama of having "a deep-seated hatred of white people."
The racial and social justice group Color of Change spearheaded a boycott of advertisers that culminated in Fox News head Roger Ailes canceling of Beck's 5:00 p.m. program and replacing it with a panel show.
"If they tell you to sit down and shut up, it's trouble," he said. "If it's a Republican or Democrat or independent, if it's a Tea Party person or someone from Occupy Wall Street, if they say shut up, it's trouble."
Beck recently claimed that he left television and formed his online-only empire TheBlaze.com to "save his soul" from the void of cable news. The Fox News PR department rebutted that statement in typically caustic fashion, saying, "Glenn Beck wasn’t trying to save his soul, he was trying to save his ass. Advertisers fled his show and even Glenn knows what that means in our industry. Yet, we still tried to give him a soft landing. Guess no good deed goes unpunished.”
Advertiser boycotts are one of the gravest existential threats to the talk radio empire, as was rocked in 2012 when the medium's avatar, Rush Limbaugh, took to the airwaves to call reproductive rights activist Sandra Fluke a "slut" and a prostitute for testifying before a Congressional hearing about insurance companies covering birth control pills for women. The comments touched off a firestorm, with Limbaugh spending the following days doubling down and ordering Fluke to post videos of her sexual encounters online.
Since then many advertisers have decided to wash their hands of the potentially inflammatory market altogether. While Limbaugh has claimed his own personal finances barely took a hit from the boycotts, stations across the country are having to cut back on what they spend for less well-known programs as their profit margins plunge.
Cumulus Media, one of the companies that was forced to start running Public Service Announcements and dead air for lack of advertisers during Limbaugh's show, saw its earnings plunge 83 percent in the second quarter of fiscal 2013.
Premiere Networks' Senior Vice President of Sales Dan Metter told the AP that Limbaugh's advertising sales are better now than they were in 2012. Premiere's focus has changed, he said, as they pursue smaller businesses instead of larger, more established advertisers who jumped ship in the wake of the Fluke controversy.
Beck, for his part, seems to be contemplating his legacy of late and not liking what he sees. In addition to his regretful remarks at the Talkers conference, he has recently taken great umbrage to the fact that people think he is a conspiracy theorist.
“I’ve never been called a conspiracy theorist in my life,” Beck insisted in a recent broadcast.
This in spite of the fact that in the days after the Boston Marathon bombing, Beck hatched a wild, far-ranging theory in which he insisted that a third, mysterious "Saudi national" had bankrolled the Tsarnaev brothers' attack, or the book Beck claims to have written with author Harriet Parke about Agenda 21, the supposedly UN-led mind-control plot to create a single world government.
During the so-called "Arab Spring" of 2011, Beck concocted a bizarre nightmare scenario in which an Islamic "caliphate" was poised to take over most of Europe and the West. And in March of this year, Beck argued that CSCOPE, a Texas-based online educational program is actually an "anti-American" program for the "indoctrination" of American schoolchildren into socialism.