Who Is Glenn Beck?
Conservative talk show host Glenn Beck rose to nationally syndicated television and radio host with his knack for creating controversy. Beck's radio program reached No. 1 following his coverage of the controversy of the Presidential election of 2000. He subsequently became one of television's leading political pundits through The Glenn Beck Program, which aired on FOX News from 2009 into 2011. Beck has since continued his media career through his website, TheBlaze.
Glenn Beck was born February 10, 1964, in Mount Vernon, Washington. A leading voice among the political right, Glenn Beck has created one of the more controversial and lucrative media brands in the talk show business. Beck's folksy, passionate style landed his syndicated radio program on 400 stations across the country, while his topical FOX-News television program Glenn Beck, which ran from 2009 into 2011, drew more than 2 million daily viewers at its peak.
Beck was one of three children born to Bill and Mary Beck. In Beck's hometown of Mount Vernon, a largely farm community, Glenn showed an interest in radio at an early age. His curiousity was sparked on his eighth birthday, when his mother gave him a collection of shows that had been produced during the Depression.
Beck loved going into his bedroom and imitating the voices he heard on the radio, recording and playing them back to himself on a small hand-held recorder. At the age of 13, Beck landed his first radio job when one of the local AM stations put on a contest for a guest DJ. The well-rehearsed Beck easily won the gig.
Two years later, Beck heard about, and applied for, a DJ job at a new Seattle FM station. Having been hired without ever meeting with his new bosses face-to-face, management was a bit taken aback by their new employee's youth. Still, they loved his polished audition tape and stuck to their decision. For the next few years, Beck took a bus to Seattle after school each Friday, and worked at the studios throughout the weekend.
But while his working life seemed to be taking off, back home his personal life was in turmoil. At 13, Beck's parents divorced, due in part to Mary's battles with depression and alcohol. Despite this fact, Beck's mother gained custody of him. Then, at the age of 41, she died unexpectedly. Beck has long referred to the loss as a suicide, but his mother's death has always been shrouded in a bit of mystery.
What is known is that in May 1979, Mary ventured into the waters of Puget Sound in a small boat with a friend—supposedly to go fishing. On May 15, she was discovered floating in the water. A day later, her friend's body was found as well. The boat they were in was soon discovered, too, beached on a local island along with a small dog, some personal items and an empty bottle of liquor.
Mary Beck's death forced Glenn to move back in with his father in Bellingham, Washington, where he finished high school. Upon graduation, however, instead of following his friends to college, Beck went to work to fulfill his dream of one day landing a big radio job in New York City. Over the next decade, Beck zigzagged across the country, cutting his teeth as a radio personality in cities such as Seattle, Louisville, Washington D.C., Phoenix and Houston. Success came early. By the age of 21, Beck was commanding a salary of $70,000.
With the money came an ego. And with the ego came an increasingly brazen on-air attitude. His antics played up certain racial stereotypes, while his attacks on the competition were relentless. In one memorable prank, he covered his rival's house with stickers advertising Beck's radio station.
Beck was also slowly infusing his shows with a more patriotic flair, a change that had been sparked by the U.S. bombing of Libya in April 1986. The changes also served as the first sign of Beck's political transformation, moving from a man whose views were often socially liberal, to something a little more right leaning. "I wasn't just pro-choice, I was pro-everything, until I started taking everything off the table and began looking at things and asking if this view was consistent with that view," Beck has said.
But like his mother, Glenn Beck's life was plagued with issues. He liked his alcohol, and he liked his drugs (he would later claim he smoked pot every day for 15 years straight, beginning at the age of 16). He had an affinity for harder narcotics, too, and by the time Beck had turned 30, his addictions—combined with a series of failed morning programs with big ratings expectations—had turned him into a near has-been in the radio business.
His marriage to his first wife, with whom he shares two daughters, had also ended. Beck, trying to make it at a radio station in New Haven, Connecticut, had gone so far as to contemplate suicide before he pulled back and tried to right his life. He attended his first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, gave up smoking marijuana, cut his long hair, and decided he needed to go on a spiritual journey.
He read voraciously, and entered Yale's divinity school for a short time on the recommendation of his friend, Senator Joe Lieberman, whom Beck had gotten to know during the politician's first run for Senate in 1988. The journey eventually landed Beck at the doors of Mormonism, a new marriage, and a renewed interest in radio, though not in the Top 40 sector he'd built his career around.
When his contract ended in Connecticut, Beck chose not to renew it, instead pulling up stakes and relocating with his new wife Tania to Tampa, Florida. There, Beck delved deep into talk radio, using the controversy surrounding the 2000 presidential election to catapult his show up to No. 1.
Cable TV Personality
Then came 9/11, and Beck had an even bigger issue to shout about. He also had more people to shout to, when he was offered a syndicated national afternoon show. By 2004 Beck, who had moved his operations to Philadelphia so he could be closer to his children, was broadcasting The Glenn Beck Program on 150 stations. Two years later, the Glenn Beck brand reached even greater heights when CNN hired him as one of the stars of the recently revamped Headline News.
CNN's new man didn't disappoint, earning ratings that were second at Headline News only to Nancy Grace. But Beck had his detractors. As he had on radio, the TV version of Beck seemed especially good at creating controversy. On his CNN show, the host went after the 9/11 widows, lambasted a segment of Katrina survivors as "scumbags" and likened Cindy Sheehan to a "tragedy pimp."
In October 2008, Glenn Beck was on the move again, when he announced he was leaving CNN for a new job at FOX. There, in the wake of President Obama's election, Beck found himself with an even bigger microphone, stoking the fears among the political right about the new president's agenda. His radio and television programs contributed to the Tea Party protests that popped up around the country in the summer of 2009 in response to a proposed healthcare ovrerhaul. Beck also spearheaded what he called the 9/12 Project, which he pushed as an effort to recreate the unity that had enveloped the country in the wake of the terrorist attacks. The project revolved around nine principals and 12 values that the talk show host had outlined himself.
In July 2009, Beck turned faced controversy once again when, during a guest appearance on Fox & Friends he pointedly called President Obama a "racist" with "a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture." As a result, several advertisers on his FOX show withdrew their support. But the remarks, and Beck's refusal to run away from them, helped his ratings to swell to some of the highest numbers the show had ever registered.
After returning from a vacation that Beck made clear was not a suspension, he went back to the business of attacking the Obama administration and what he called "the radical wolves about to destroy our republic." One of his biggest targets was Van Jones, a green jobs expert and special adviser to the president, whom Beck alleged had formed strong communist ties as a younger activist. The talk show host's repeated attacks and the anger he built up within his base about Jones' appointment eventually played a big hand in the adviser's decision to step down in early September 2009.
In August 2010, Beck launched a news and opinion website called TheBlaze. He followed with the online television network GBTV after leaving FOX in 2011, eventually consolidating everything under the umbrella of TheBlaze.
Off the massive FOX platform, Beck toned down some of the more provocative aspects of his persona, even apologizing for past rhetoric about President Obama and liberal opposition to the Iraq War. Nevertheless he remained a staunch proponent of conservative views, such as the importance of strong border security, and eventually became a prominent supporter of President Donald Trump.
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