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The provocative Fox News personality Glenn Beck will be leaving the network later this year after a little more than two years. That word today from both Fox and Glenn Beck.
NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik offers this analysis of Beck's brief tenure.
DAVID FOLKENFLIK: The press release was very polite, but we now know the answer to the enduring question: Is it possible for someone to be too incendiary, even for the Fox News Channel? And the answer is yes.
Mr. GLENN BECK: This president, I think, has exposed himself as a guy, over and over and over again, who has a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture. I don't know what it is.
FOLKENFLIK: Those remarks came from Glenn Beck back in the summer of 2009.
Mr. BECK: I'm saying he has a problem. He has a - this guy is, I believe, a racist.
FOLKENFLIK: That triggered boycotts of the show's advertisers from such organizations as the liberal advocacy group colorofchange.org. James Rucker is the group's executive director.
Mr. JAMES RUCKER (Executive Director, ColorOfChange.org): They essentially asked advertisers, was this - did they want their brands associated with this kind of rhetoric, both being divisive and deceitful on the part of someone like Glenn Beck?
FOLKENFLIK: Several hundred advertisers have peeled away. And some commercials that did air peddled gold for hoarding, or seeds for crop staples, in case the nation were to fall utterly apart. Beck's ratings have dropped 40 percent from their peak.
Bill O'Reilly can be belligerent, even slashing; Sean Hannity, a bruising and unwavering conservative; but there is nothing on Fox to rival Glenn Beck. Night after night, in that 5 p.m. slot, 2 million viewers are still tuning in to watch him spin one conspiracy story after another - about liberal interest groups, Democrats and the media - often with an apocalyptic tint, as in his rant last fall about the liberal billionaire financier George Soros.
Mr. BECK: He is known as the man who broke the Bank of England. The prime minister of Malaysia called Soros an unscrupulous profiteer. In Thailand, he was branded the economic war criminal. They also said that he sucks the blood from people.
FOLKENFLIK: Beck called Soros the puppet master, building an actual stage to make his point - leading one of America's preeminent scholars of the Holocaust, Deborah Lipstadt, to accuse Beck of classic anti-Semitic rhetoric. More recently, he's warned protests in the Middle East will lead to a new Islamic caliphate.
Mr. BECK: They all need the same thing. First, unrest and chaos. This is unmistakably planned.
FOLKENFLIK: Back in February 2009, Beck told me he had given the Fox brass a warning.
(Soundbite of archived interview)
Mr. BECK: Before I started, I thought it was only fair to try to grab a few minutes with Roger Ailes and say, you may not want to hire me because I ain't going to shut up. And the things that I, unfortunately, believe will make your heart pound a little harder.
FOLKENFLIK: Beck saw himself as bigger than the network, with not only a radio show but his own production company, Mercury Radio Arts. He does a traveling concert show, and even staged a rally last August on the same day and spot as Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech.
Mr. BECK: We simply must remember who we were, who we've been, who we can be.
FOLKENFLIK: Fox News could weather the controversies. It could handle the boycotts and the loss of advertisers. And the network could tolerate a bad spell in ratings. But all three? That was too much.
David Folkenflik, NPR News, New York.
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