Glenn Beck, George Soros and a row about the Holocaust
America's top conservative TV host's use of the Shoah as a stick to beat political enemies has left a bad taste in many mouths.
Glenn Beck, Fox News's controversial talk show host, has notched up several achievements this year, including two books and leading a march on Washington to 'Restore Honor” rally.
As one of the most vocal conservative voices in the U.S. he can probably take some credit for the influence of the Tea Party movement on results in the Midterm elections. And Time Magazine even included him in a list of 25 candidates for its 'Person of the Year' award.
It’s not clear whether the magazine’s description of Beck as "pundit, proselytizer and paranoid” was meant as a compliment – but the nomination itself is certainly an accomplishment.
This week, perhaps buoyed by the rising tide of publicity, Beck set his sites on a big target – billionaire philanthropist George Soros, to whom he dedicated several shows. In episodes titled “Muppet master”, Beck, in characteristically fiery style, portrayed Soros as a shadowy figure pulling strings that span the globe in a plot to rob America of its world leadership.
"Along with currencies, Soros also collapses regimes with his Open society fund. He helped to fund the velvet revolution in Czech Republic, the Orange revolution in Ukraine, the Rose revolution in Georgia, he also helped to engineer coups in Slovakia, Croatia, Yugoslavia. So what is his target now? Us, America,” growled the program's narrator in melodramatic tones.
The video later shows Secretary of State Hillary Clinton praising Soros’s work, and the voice continues: “He has been granted four visits at least so far to the White House.” and brings video where Soros mentions that capitalism bears some risks for the open society.
Soros is no stranger to controversy, of course. He reportedly netted a cool billion dollars through currency speculations that some say sparked the 'Black Wednesday' financial crisis in 1992, earning him the nickname 'The Man Who Broke the Bank of England. His Open Society NGO, meanwhile, prides itself on funding diverse groups from across the political spectrum – leaving him open to attacks from almost every conceivable political angle.
But Beck's serial character assassination, which seemingly paints the Hungarian Jewish financier as a wartime Nazi collaborator, surely trumps any in the long list of accusations thrown at Soros, who turned 80 this year.
"His childhood is shocking traumatic: Atyears old he had to help the government to confiscate the lands of his fellow Jews sent to the gas chambers”, says Beck at the beginning of one episode.
Later, the narrator says: “He was born to the Jewish orthodox family, today he is an atheist, he doesn’t embrace his Jewish identity. He rarely supports Jewish causes or Israel.” The film then shows footage of Soros saying “I think there are enough Jews to take care of Israel."
Beck's strategy is simple. With Fox news and Rupert Murdoch's mighty News Corporation at his back, he appears to be throwing down a brazen challenge to the American public.
Do you really think I could get away with lying to you on air? he seems to be saying. If I tried anything like that, Murdoch would fire me.
Beck explains that Soros, who survived the Holocaust by living with a non-Jewish family, was on one occasion taken by the head of the family, who worked at Hungary's agriculture ministry, to inventory the property of a Jewish family.
“[He]used to go around with this anti-Semite and deliver papers to the Jews and confiscate their property and then ship them off. George Soros was part of it. He would help confiscate the stuff. Here's a Jewish boy helping send the Jews to the death camps," Beck said.
"I'm not making a judgment. That's between him and God. As a 14-year-old boy, I don't know what you would do… But you would think that there would be some remorse as an 80-year-old man, or a 40-year-old man or a 20-year-old man. When it was all over, you would do some soul-searching and say, 'What did I do? What did I do?'"
Predictably, Beck's account – which critics point out is more then a shade selective – raised a storm. The Anti-Defamation League’s Abraham Foxman denounced the remarks “completely inappropriate and offensive".
"For a political commentator or entertainer to have the audacity to say – inaccurately – that there’s a Jewish boy sending Jews to death camps, as part of a broader assault on Mr. Soros, that’s horrific”, Foxman said in a statement.
“While I, too, may disagree with many of Soros’ views and analysis on the issues, to bring in this kind of innuendo about his past is unacceptable. To hold a young boy responsible for what was going on around him during the Holocaust as part of a larger effort to denigrate the man is repugnant. The Holocaust was a horrific time, and many people had to make excruciating choices to ensure their survival. George Soros has been forthright about his childhood experiences and his family’s history, and there the matter should rest."
As yet, Soros’ spokespeople have yet to comment on a story that verges on the bizarre. Not that this has prevented Beck from driving home his attack.
“Soros' people called me to say I am an anti-Semite because I was going to air this," he says in one program. "Probably, I am more supportive of Israel and Jews than George Soros."
There are indeed many ways to support Israel. But using the Shoah as a tool to taunt a Jew, no matter what his political opinions, is probably not one of them.