But on Thursday, the network and producer Warner Bros. finally put principle before profit. Filming on the show was stopped -- for now. Sheen has been giving a series of bizarre interviews. Comments that CBS and the studio considered anti-Semitic led to a breaking point, according to The New York Times. It is now trite to ask where that boundary is at Premiere Radio Networks and Fox News regarding Glenn Beck. The talk-show host continues to make comments that are anti-Semitic -- and yet there is no public action.
Beck has said Jewish financier George Soros has "disturbing hair in his nose," while saying the Holocaust survivor helped Nazis. This week, Beck compared Reform rabbis' political activity to "radicalized Islam." He has apologized, saying it was "a horrible analogy." The head of the Jewish group the Anti-Defamation League, has accepted his contrition. Beck has maintained he harbors no anti-Semitism, citing, in part, a recent documentary he produced detailing Iranian risk to Israel.
For years, Beck has engaged in what Washington Post columnist and author Dana Milbank has called "a Nazi fetish." Milbank published a 2010 book that is an anti-Beck polemic. Statements are statements. Milbank details multiple comparisons Beck has made between the actions of American politicians, including President Obama, to Hitler's reign. Such verbal assaults demean the 6 million Jews who died in the Holocaust.
If the Obama administration's bailing out of GM and Chrysler sets a troubling precedent -- a view which holds some credence -- by all means attack it. Urge people to take a stand. But not because it could be a step toward genocide.
Nonetheless, both Premiere Radio and Fox News continue to back Beck and his platforms. He is a money-maker. In the Fox News case, however, it may be more about avoiding a negative snowball effect at the network. Beck is a paragon to many passionate Fox viewers, who have felt under-appreciated and ignored by Washington. Abandoning Beck might bring a revolt and network-wide boycott.
If the powers that rule Fox News won't even censure Beck for anti-Semitic discourse, why won't his audience take action? Why don't they stand on principle and push back? Why don't they say enough is enough? Beck is hurting their cause. With incendiary comments, he is taking attention away from the fight against tax increases, the opposition to a ballooning bureaucracy, the need for a more aggressive battle against terrorism, etc.
If his listeners consider themselves part of a movement, they may be allowing Beck to go down a path that could backfire. His show has brought a focus to their positions. The White House may not be heeding his calls, but it is aware of them.
But like many media commentators, if he unduly makes himself the center of attention and not the issues at hand, is there still a movement -- or just a platform for his ego?
A bigger concern: where is the specific outrage? Why are conservatives and members of the Tea Party seeking to promote American values and the Constitution overlooking anti-Semitism? Isn't freedom of religion a hallmark of American society? Recently, Beck has been causing controversy with his take on the revolution in Egypt, suggesting it may lead to an Islamic government dangerous to the U.S. Certainly a credible point. Shouldn't he advocate for a unified America, one that will stand together to ward it off? Before the election in Egypt, shouldn't the U.S. try to demonstrate the possibilities of a government accepting of all religions? How can Beck lobby for that when his comments seed religious division at home?
Beck's ratings on Fox are down, so maybe there is some frustration. But his audience should demand Beck focus on their fight, not distract from it.