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Beck v. Beck on the Sherrod Facts
  by Gene Lyons


No sooner had last week's thrilling episode about the smearing of USDA official Shirley Sherrod appeared
in this space than the indignant letters and e-mails began. Evidently, Glenn Beck has his acolytes well-trained.
"Damnable liar" and "fraud" were two of the nicer epithets.

Supposedly, I'd “knowingly smeared "the Fox News weeper" to advance (my) agenda."

Subjected to a similar barrage, a normally unflappable editor curtly informed me that
"if you would double-check your facts, it might save us a whole lot of time."

Ah, but I had, you see. And therein lies an instructive little tale.

First, here's the offending passage from last week's column: "The assault on Sherrod...was so mean-spirited, crass
and dishonest, not to mention so astonishingly stupid, that even Fox News provocateurs like Bill O’Reilly and
Glenn Beck - after initially falling for the hoax - were pretty much forced to apologize. I expect O'Reilly actually meant it."

I gave O’Reilly the benefit of the doubt out of personal experience. The man can be a blowhard, and frequently
goes off half-cocked. Having appeared as a guest on his program, however, I know that he also has the self-confidence
to book dissenters from his world-view, and lets them finish sentences. That’s more than you can say about Beck,
Limbaugh and talk-radio cult leaders generally.

What got Beck’s fans stirred up, however, was that his "apology" took the form of an elaborate falsehood.
Because, in reality, the self-proclaimed "rodeo cowboy" (has anybody ever seen him in an arena?) had fallen for
Andrew Breitbart's deceptively edited video of Shirley Sherrod’s speech hook, line and sinker.

I wish gene would do more TV.
I haven't seen him do TV since maybe the Clinton era.


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