Has Glenn Beck really and truly morphed into a Trumpkin?
Has he suddenly shed all his vicious disdain for Donald Trump the way a snake molts its skin?
That’s certainly what it sounded like—and looked like, when, in the video broadcast of his radio show Friday, Beck theatrically shoved a red “MAGA” cap on his luxuriantly silver-coiffed pate and announced: “I will vote for him in 2020! Gladly!”
Later on during Beck’s 6 1/2-minute rant—in which he variously shouted at the top of his lungs, spoke in a high, squeaky voice, impersonated a tape recorder rolling in reverse, and emitted a soft simper—Beck addressed his new hero directly: “I will tell you—the things that you have done as the president are remarkable! Remarkable!”
Just as Beck must have hoped, the media-political complex—or at least that dwindling portion of it that still pays attention to him as his once-mighty megaphone, The Blaze, continues to contract like a death star and his ratings and relevance continue to slide—is collectively scratching its head over his latest bizarre transition.
Was it Beck’s Road-to-Damascus moment, or simply one of his periodic displays of political exhibitionism?
“Glenn Beck succumbs to the imperatives of the conservative entertainment complex,” tweeted Republican pundit David Frum, a former White House speechwriter for George W. Bush, advancing a reasonable theory.
However, a person who knows Beck very well (and asked not to be identified) suggested that his old friend’s latest conversion hardly deserves the bandwidth it’s getting, calling Friday’s performance a “desperate and predictable act of a man hanging on to his last shred of relevance by a thread. Trying desperately to woo back the massive number of fans lost when he opposes Trump. Sad.”
An email to Beck’s PR spokesman—who is likely as whiplashed as the rest of us—got no response by deadline.
It wasn’t so long ago that Beck, a self-described “catastrophist,” was describing the Trump presidency as if it were a sign of the Apocalypse and likening the former reality television star-turned-commander in chief to Adolf Hitler.
Just last year, in the January/February issue of the left-leaning Atlantic (during a period when Beck was trying eagerly to seduce the liberal mainstream media with profuse apologies for his previously hateful rhetoric, sharing warm insights with The New York Times editorial board and Samantha Bee), Peter Beinart wrote:
“He didn’t just oppose Trump. He compared him to Hitler. He warned that Trump was a possible ‘extinction-level event’ for American democracy and capitalism. In an attempt to defeat Trump, Beck campaigned during the primaries for Ted Cruz. Then, when Cruz endorsed Trump, Beck apologized for having supported him.”
MSNBC contributor Charlie Sykes—one of the few conservative pundits who still manages to earn a living while maintaining his self-respect and staunch Never-Trumpism—called Beck’s mutation “one of the most spectacular” flip-flops he’s ever witnessed.
“Having watched Glenn Beck for months and years being as critical of Trump as much as anyone, on one level this is stunning,” said Sykes, a former Milwaukee radio host who conducted a famously hostile interview with Trump just before the 2016 Wisconsin primary. “On another level it’s just an acknowledgement of the incredible pressure on the right to conform. There’s really not a business model for conservative media to be anti-Trump, and perhaps Glenn Beck is just simply acknowledging that.”
Sykes, who drily calls himself an “MSNBC conservative,” added: “The reality is that for anybody in the conservative media, to be critical of Donald Trump is to alienate a huge portion of your audience. The conservative audience is becoming less and less tolerant of dissent.”
During his radio rant, which occasionally seemed to take on the trappings of demonic possession, Beck vented—in anger, or a fair facsimile thereof—about the mainstream media’s alleged outrage over Trump repeatedly referring this week to the largely Latino MS-13 Gang as “animals,” an epithet that struck many ears as the president’s preferred one for the entire immigrant population.
“I’ve had enough!” Beck raged. “Media, if you can get me—Glenn Beck—to do this”—and here, he donned his red “MAGA” with a flourish—“if you can drive me to the point to where I say, ‘ You know what? I’ve had enough!’ I’ll vote for him in 2020!… If you can drive me to the point where I’ll wear one of these stupid red hats, I’m telling you, you’re making a gigantic mistake, and I welcome it! I welcome it!”
As for anyone offended by Trump’s “animal” remark, “Shut up! Shut up!” Beck advised. “If those animals took your daughter, and did what they’ve done to other Americans’ daughters, you’d call them an animal! If they’re not animals, I don’t know what is!… this is truly Trump-derangement syndrome.”
And so on and so forth.
“Please forgive me, Mr. Trump, in predicting you will sweep in 2020—because every time I am for a candidate they always lose,” Beck went on in seeming display of self-awareness. “So I won’t endorse you, because that’s the kiss of death.”
So is Glenn Beck really a born-again Trumpkin?
Maybe not, said his friend Riaz Patel, a gay liberal Muslim who appears regularly with Beck on television and radio.
“He’s not saying he’s on board with Trump (even calls the hat ‘stupid’),” Patel argued in an email, “but he PREDICTS that this non-stop antagonism between liberal media and Trump will lead to another victory in 2020.”