There has been something delightfully ironic about watching Glenn Beck become one of the sanest voices in conservative media over this past year.
The Texas-based right-wing radio host and founder of The Blaze website—who once declared that Barack Obama has a “deep-seated hatred for white people”—was #NeverTrump from the beginning of the GOP primaries. He initially threw his weight behind Ted Cruz and didn’t budge from his anti-Trump stance even after Cruz decided to endorse the man who insulted his wife and blamed his father for the JFK assassination.
As Election Day approached, Beck openly toyed with the idea of voting for Hillary Clinton, criticized Trump during the third presidential debate for his baffling incoherence on abortion, and called FBI Director James Comey “irresponsible” for tossing an October grenade into the race at the last minute.
Throughout the race, however, Beck has reserved his harshest words for Steve Bannon, who just this weekend was named President-elect Trump’s chief strategist. But is Beck’s great moral outrage over the self-proclaimed leader of the alt-right as selfless as it seems? Or is it personal?
It was all the way back in February of this year, when Cruz still had a chance and months before Trump had hired Bannon to serve as his campaign CEO, that Beck launched his attack.
“I’m telling you that I believe that Bannon thinks he’s either going to be the chief of staff or he’s going to be the next Roger Ailes,” Beck said, presciently. He accused the Breitbart executive chairman of “taking orders from a political candidate” and “reworking your entire site to promote the lies of a specific candidate without any kind of truth behind these things.” In Beck’s view, that made Bannon more like Joseph Goebbels than Ailes.
“Andrew Breitbart would be spinning in his grave right now,” Beck said, referring to the late founder of Breitbart.com.
But as it turns out, neither Breitbart nor Bannon were big fans of Beck, who launched The Blaze as a direct competitor to Breitbart after he was let go by Ailes and Fox News.
A few months after Beck started broadcasting his GBTV show online in 2011, Andrew Breitbart went on Steve Bannon’s “Victory Sessions” podcast, and the two men spent a good deal of time trashing their new competition.
Beck had made some provocative comments comparing Newt Gingrich to Barack Obama and suggested Tea Partiers only liked Gingrich because he was white, and Breitbart and Bannon accused Beck of “race-baiting.”
“In the past, Beck has made a lot of mistakes, and his supporters come out and try to defend him, because Beck is a coward and will not defend himself when he makes a mistake or lies about a person or steals content,” Breitbart said.
Egging him on, Bannon replied, “Hold on, I want to go back over this: You’re saying that Glenn Beck’s a coward, Glenn Beck’s a liar, and you’re saying that Glenn Beck steals material from people?”
“Oh yes, and this is well-documented,” Breitbart said, laying out what he viewed as Beck’s deliberately misleading coverage of the Shirley Sherrod scandal, which began its life on Breitbart’s Big Government website. He went on to say that Beck has been known to “take countless bloggers’ content, to turn it into book gold, to turn it into chalkboard gold, his infamous chalkboards,” an allegation explored in detail by The Daily Caller’s Matthew Boyle earlier that year.
Asked by Bannon what he would like to see Beck do next, Breitbart said, “At this point, I don’t care what he does because he’s dead to me.”
Five years later, Bannon had officially joined the Trump campaign and Beck was openly calling him “quite possibly the most dangerous guy in all of American politics” and a “horrible, despicable human being.” His assertion that Bannon uses the “Dark Web” to exact revenge on his enemies landed Beck on Breitbart’s list of the “six dumbest claims” journalists made about Bannon.
After news broke that Bannon would be joining Trump in the White House, Beck once again warned against Bannon’s “clear tie to white nationalists,” adding, “He’s a terrifying man.”
These sentiments were echoed on Monday by Dana Loesch, who sued Breitbart—citing an “increasingly hostile” work environment—before joining The Blaze, during her live show. “Steve Bannon puts himself above everything,” she said of her former boss. “I just don’t think this is a good fit for the country. Maybe it is for Steve Bannon, but it’s not a good fit for the country.” Loesch suggested that Bannon will enter the White House with “vengeance” and “pettiness” in his heart, which should alone “disqualify” him from advising the president.
When Beck first joked that Bannon was angling to be Trump’s chief of staff earlier this year, he had no idea how right he would end up being. That job may have ended up going to Reince Priebus, but it was Bannon who got top billing on the official press release. In the end, Bannon’s ambitions far exceeded being the next Roger Ailes.
Now, a man who has never hid his disgust for Beck is about to become arguably the second most powerful person in Washington, if not the country. And at the same time, Trump and his team have made every indication that they intend to act hostilely toward a “rigged” media that they believe has been biased against them from the beginning.
It is yet another irony that Beck now finds himself in their crosshairs along with the rest of us.