Glenn Beck goes home to face - what else? - controversy

His hometown is giving Beck the key to the city. Before that, his fans paid up to $500 to see and hear the conservative commentator at Safeco Field in Seattle. Did we mention that he has a new book out?

Courtesy of Bruce Wersen/AP
In this 1973 photo provided by Bruce Wersen, Werson, left, is shown with his childhood friend Glenn Beck, right, as they get ready to perform at the Puyallup Fair in Puyallup, Wash., 1973. Beck, now a personality on the Fox News Channel, has drawn protests as he prepares to return to Mount Vernon, Wash., where he spent part of his childhood, to accept a key to the city.

If Glenn Beck were a soldier, he’d be General Patton. If an athlete, Roger Federer four days of the week and Michael Phelps the other three. If a rock musician, the Beatles -- all four of them.

The guy is everywhere, getting more ink than that other media star, Barack Obama. Cover of Time magazine (giving the world a Bronx cheer). Three-part series in Salon. Sit-down network interview.

All he has to do is pretend to drop a frog in a pot of boiling water (something about contrasting the dangers of John McCain versus President Obama), and the blogosphere goes nuts. Just ask the Monitor’s resident political humorist Jimmy Orr. The response to his Beck/frog blog this week had Jimmy hopping all day.

Today, conservative commentator and Fox News wunderkind Beck is going home to Mt. Vernon, Washington, for “Glenn Beck Day.” Before that, he’s speaking at Safeco Field in nearby Seattle at an event sponsored by the Evergreen Freedom Foundation, a private non-profit whose mission is “to advance individual liberty, free enterprise, and limited, accountable government.”

It may be about freedom, but the “Take the Field” event is not free: $500 to attend a private reception and have your photo taken with The Man; private reception without a photo for $250; seats with a catered lunch on the field for $100. Those are all sold out, but some of the cheap seats were still available Saturday morning for $10-$25.

Naturally, the arrival of Beck is stirring up people in the normally laid-back Pacific Northwest -- the country’s largely-liberal quadrant known by those of a more conservative stripe as the “Upper Left Coast.”

Writing at, longtime Seattle columnist Joel Connelly observes: “The Emerald City is hosting a man who calls Barack Obama a ‘racist,’ sees a back-to-school presidential speech as ‘indoctrinating’ children and defends an obscure 18th Century constitutional provision that set in place the slave trade and capped taxes at $10 a slave.” That was one of Connelly’s more polite comments.

Anti-Beck protesters claim to have gathered 16,000 signatures in opposition to Beck’s being given the key to his hometown. His fans fought back with signatures and radio call-ins of their own.

Mt. Vernon Mayor Bud Norris thought it was a good idea to honor a wildly successful hometown boy who got his start in radio there when he was still in high school.

City Council members disagreed. They passed a resolution stating: "Mount Vernon City Council is in no way sponsoring the Mayor's event on Sept. 26, 2009, and is not connected to the Glenn Beck event in any manner."

The mayor of nearby Bellingham has offered a key to his city to Jon Stewart, liberal satirist and host of Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show.”

Beck gets challenged all the time by what his fans deride as the “mainstream media.”

Sitting for a recent interview with Katie Couric of CBS News, Beck squirmed and huffed as he spent three minutes not answering her question about what he means by “white culture.”

Writing in the New York Times this week, Nobel economist Paul Krugman observed that Beck “informed his audience of a ‘buried’ Obama administration study showing that Waxman-Markey [the House-passed cap-and-trade climate bill] would actually cost the average family $1,787 per year.”

“Needless to say, no such study exists,” Krugman wrote.

If you couldn’t make it to the events in Washington State Saturday, you can see a pretty funny impression on Saturday Night Live.


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