Liberals Fume as Glenn Beck 'Hijacks' Martin Luther King

Beck plans a massive event on the anniversary of King's "dream" speech

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This weekend, Fox News host Glenn Beck is planning a large Tea Party rally in Washington, DC, to commemorate the anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s 1963 march on Washington and "I have a dream" speech. Beck and such guests as Sarah Palin will speak from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, the same place King gave his speech. The event is drawing harsh criticism from liberals, already antagonistic towards Beck, who say the conservative pundit is implicitly comparing himself to King, aligning the Tea Party movement with the civil rights movement, and trying to co-opt the sacred moment of history for partisan political purposes. Critics of the planned rally include King's son, Martin Luther King III, who explained his measured opposition in a careful Washington Post op-ed. The Tea Party movement has previously been accused of being less than hospitable to racial minorities, and a recent Tea Party "guide to Washington" included warnings about African immigrants and advice to stay out of certain neighborhoods which also happen to be majority black. Here's what liberals are saying about the appropriateness of the protest.

  • Beck, Opponents Begin Partisan War Over Event The L.A. Times' Kathleen Hennessey reports, "Civil-rights leaders aligned with Democrats are recoiling at the Fox News superpundit's plan to gather his faithful on the same steps where King delivered his call for racial justice. They're planning their own march in honor of the speech and criticizing Beck for trying to 'hijack' King's legacy. ... In the months leading up to the weekend rally and related events, Beck has accused the Kennedy Center of religious discrimination. He has suggested the federal government has tried to limit such protests on the mall, without citing evidence. And he's enlisted an undeniably political figure -- former Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin -- as a headliner, while promoting the rally through a constellation of political groups often aligned with Republicans."
  • Possible 'Clash' With Al Sharpton's Simultaneous Event The Washington Post's Amy Gardner warns, "With just a few days before the Beck rally, basic questions linger, including how big it will be and whether the event, which Beck says is nonpolitical, will help or hurt Republicans in November. Also unanswered is whether Beck can pull off the connection to King without creating offense - or confrontation with another event the same day led by the Rev. Al Sharpton."
  • 'Grifters' Exploit King's Legacy Salon's Joan Walsh writes, "it's galling to people who care about civil rights that grifters like Beck and Palin will desecrate the site of one of King's greatest speeches this weekend. ... Beck has been comparing himself to King, and his acolytes to civil rights strugglers, at least since the Obama administration began. He's too big a megalomaniac not to know the symbolism of his choice. ... Palin's a great choice for a King anniversary event: her last brave civil rights stance was defending the right of Dr. Laura Schlessinger to use the N-word 11 times on her radio show."
  • 'Crusade' to Rewrite History Open Left's Paul Rosenberg writes, "the racist attack on Obama not only involved denialism, but projection: It was, Glenn Beck assured us, Obama who was the racist--a theme that Beck has taken so seriously that he's organizing his very own white conservatives' march on Washington this weekend to mug Martin Luther King's memory and steal his dream. It's a very carefully crafted argument that's been worked on for decades, though in Beck's incarnation it's rather slipshod. Still, projecting conservatives' racism onto blacks and liberals is a central aspect of this sort of racist crusade."
  • Beck and King at Odds on Nearly Every Issue The Root's David Swerdlick writes, "While the Tea Party cohort expected to turn out for Beck is set on getting government hands off their Medicare, he's got them paying tribute to a guy who believed that the government had a central role in shaping society. On the way to Beck-a-palooza, they might want to brush up on King's actual views": Pro-Labor, Anti-War, Pro-Affirmative Action, Anti-Poverty. Swerdlick concludes that King would have been staunchly pro-Obama, something Beck, who accused Obama of racism, is certainly not. "Since Beck surely considers himself a red-blooded all-American, it's only natural that he'd be looking to King for inspiration. What's not quite clear is why he's trying to convince his conservative flock that King was one of them."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.