At a Senate Homeland Security Committee hearing last Thursday, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) likened Fox News talk show host Glenn Beck to Voldemort, a diabolical character in the Harry Potter series. The hearing focused on the numerous policy "czars" that have been named by President Obama, an issue that has been a frequent topic on Beck's program.
In her opening remarks at the hearing, McCaskill called Beck “He Who Shall Not Be Named," a moniker used for the malevolent wizard Lord Voldemort, the antagonist in the bestselling Harry Potter books and films, by those too fear-stricken by his evil deeds to utter his real name.
McCaskill blamed the attention that has been focused on the Obama administration's "czars"--thus necessitating the committee's hearing--on what she called a "rant" by Beck on his program.
“This all began by--as my kids would say in reference to the Harry Potter series--this all began from a rant by ‘He Who Shall Not Be Named,’” she said.
In 2000, author J.K. Rowling described the character to Entertainment Weekly as “a raging psychopath, devoid of the normal human responses to other people’s suffering." In a 2004 interview with the BBC, she referred to him as an “evil dictator.” Throughout the books, Voldemort serves as a foil to hero Potter.
“Czar,” the name applied to the autocratic emperors of Russia before they were removed from the throne in the Russian Revolution, is the unofficial title given to certain policy advisers in the administration.
On his May 29 broadcast, Beck said that the president had more czars “than any other president has ever had” and “almost as many as Russia had in 400 years.”
On Aug. 21, Beck posted on exhaustive list on his Web site of the 32 appointees he deemed to be czars, with their names and job descriptions.
White House Communications Secretary Anita Dunn hit back by posting a “Reality Check” on the White House blog, linking to Beck’s site and using the same argument to discredit his claims. She wrote (on Sept. 16): “Of the 32 ‘czars’ on Beck’s list, nine were confirmed by the Senate.”
The reference to Beck was underscored by the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), who later in the hearing referred to “He Whose Name Shall Not be Mentioned”--and said that the unnamed man was a constituent of his in Connecticut “who is my constituent and long-time acquaintance since he had a morning radio show in New Haven, Conn.” Beck is a resident of Fairfield County, Conn., and worked at Connecticut’s KC101 FM beginning in 1992.
A spokeswoman for McCaskill, when asked on Monday why Beck was comparable to Voldemort, told CNSNews.com Monday: “It’s pretty clear what she meant when she said that, so you should just take it at face value.”
Beck, a popular CNN host before joining Fox News Channel, has been at the forefront of conservative commentators who for the last several months have challenged President Obama’s increased usage of policy "czars."
Beck devoted significant coverage and scrutiny to "green jobs czar" Van Jones, after it was discovered that Jones had been associated with a Marxist organization called Standing Together to Organize a Revolutionary Movement (STORM), and had signed a petition calling for congressional hearings on whether the U.S. government allowed the 9/11 attacks to happen.
Jones, who was a member of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, resigned Sept. 5.
Beck has also raised concerns about several other Obama advisers, including “climate czar” Carol Browner, “health-care czar” Nancy Ann DeParle and “diversity czar” Mark Lloyd.
McCaskill claimed it was Beck’s “rant” that created the circumstances under which last week’s hearing was held regarding legitimate advisory positions.
“The rant that this person did included nine people who have been confirmed by the Senate in his list of czars, and of the nine people who have been confirmed by the Senate, all but two of those were unanimously confirmed by the Senate,” the junior senator from Missouri said.
But during the hearing, the committee’s ranking Republican, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), contended that, by her count, Obama had appointed 18 new czars who had not been vetted by the Senate and did not report to Congress--administrators that White House Counsel Greg Craig has said will not be allowed to appear before Congress.
McCaskill’s attack on Beck is in line with a White House offensive against Fox News. In recent weeks, three top White House officials have made comments attempting to discredit the network.
After issuing a Sept. 30 press release enumerating what she labeled as “lies,” the White House’s Dunn told TIME Magazine the cable news channel was “opinion journalism masquerading as news” in a story dated Oct. 8.
In a later CNN appearance, she said the White House would treat Fox like an “enemy.”
“Fox News often operates almost as either the research arm or the communications arm of the Republican party,” Dunn added.
White House senior adviser David Axelrod jumped into the fray 10 days later on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos,” saying of Fox News, “They’re not really a news station if you watch even--it’s not just their commentators, but a lot of their news programming. It’s really not news--it’s pushing a point of view.”
Axelrod pressed further by urging other news organizations treat Fox differently.
“And the bigger thing is that other news organizations like yours ought not to treat them that way, and we’re not going to treat them that way. We’re going to appear on their shows. We’re going to participate but understanding that they represent a point of view.”
White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, also appearing on CNN, sniped at Fox, as well.
“It’s not a news organization so much as it has a perspective. And that’s a different take. And more importantly is not (to) have the CNNs and the others in the world being led in following Fox, as if what they’re trying to do is a legitimate news organization in the sense of both sides’ sense of a valued opinion.”
Beck did not comment for this story, but said on an Oct. 12 broadcast that the White House had "devoted more time" to fighting Fox than fighting the war in Afghanistan. Said Fox News Senior Vice President of Programming Bill Shine of the criticism: “Every time they do it, our ratings go up.”