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Stewart’s Rap Caps Fox’s Week of Beck Dreck

It’s been quite a week for Glenn Beck, the Fox News Channel host, whose hyperbolic rantings have caused consternation even within the network, as the Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz reported.

The Post story reportedly prompted FNC CEO Roger Ailes to chide employees for badmouthing one of their own and betraying “the family,” in a briefing to the D.C. bureau, per mediabistro.com/tvnewser, which sounded like a thinly veiled warning to take a hike if you can’t be loyal to the network. Still, Beck had put such loyalty to the test by conducting an hour-long interview with loopy Rep. Eric Massa that made both of them laughingstocks.

But the capper came Thursday, as Jon Stewart devoted the first 15 minutes of “The Daily Show” to a wildly elaborate spoof of Beck’s antics, which included dissecting words, scribbling on a chalkboard and making absurd leaps of logic.

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As I wrote in a column in December, Beck has shifted Fox’s entire access, altering the channel’s profile and chemistry in a combustible way. At the time, I quoted liberal talkshow host Bill Press, who said on CNN’s “Reliable Sources” that he
was “amazed at how much Fox lets Glenn Beck get away with. I think he’s a
ticking time bomb, and one day he’s going to explode in the face of Roger Ailes.”

Until then, he’s going to draw plenty of flak — and not just from the usual suspects. Indeed, the criticism of Fox has come from some unexpected quarters — including News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch’s extended family. In a New York Times profile of Ailes, Murdoch’s son-in-law, PR exec Matthew Freud, was quoted as saying, “I am by no means alone within the family or the company in being
ashamed and sickened by Roger Ailes’s horrendous and sustained disregard
of the journalistic standards that News Corporation, its founder and
every other global media business aspires to.”

Beck, in short, has become a huge asset to Fox — and an equally sizable headache. And while Stewart’s latest volley was hardly his first toward the host, the extended takedown underscores how for many media critics, Beck’s over-the-top rhetoric and McCarthy-esque tactics are increasingly seen as more than a laughing matter.

In a way, it’s kind of appropriate: The guy who was very public about undergoing hemorrhoid surgery a couple of years ago has become a star by cable news standards — and even for his bosses at Fox, a giant pain in the ass.

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