Glenn Beck spent a segment on his radio show today blaming the media for the false “Pizzagate” conspiracy theory, asserting that the media’s failure to fairly and accurately cover “real” scandals involving political figures is creating an environment in which conspiracy theories thrive because nobody trusts the media any longer.
In an effort to prove his theory, Beck cited the story of U.S. Ambassador to Belgium Howard Gutman, who was accused of soliciting underage prostitutes and whose crimes Beck claimed were covered up by Hillary Clinton when she was serving as secretary of state.
Beck insisted that there was credible evidence that Gutman was “involved in a child sex scandal” but when Clinton was informed of the allegations, she ignored them and simply transferred him to a different embassy. Furthermore, the press mostly ignored the story in an effort to protect Clinton, Beck said, which is what is now giving rise to conspiracy theories like “Pizzagate.”
“When you have the State Department and Hillary Clinton dismissing child sex trafficking, which CBS News was reporting years ago,” Beck said, “when you have Hillary Clinton’s State Department saying, ‘Don’t look into that,’ conspiracy theories begin.”
“So media, before you start pointing fingers at everyone else, start pointing fingers to yourself,” Beck said. “You accepted the fact that Hillary Clinton said, ‘Don’t look into that, let’s move him.’ She did exactly what the Catholic Church did!”
Insisting that everyone needs to start taking responsibility for the information they promote and share, Beck said that the media must realize that it “played a major role” in helping to create wild conspiracy theories like “Pizzagate” because “you didn’t do your job” and adequately cover what he asserted was an actual scandal involving Clinton’s cover-up of Gutman’s crimes (the relevant portion begins around the 30:00 mark):
It is therefore no small irony that Beck’s self-righteous rant about how the media failed to do its job by covering the Gutman scandal is entirely undercut by the fact that Beck himself couldn’t be bothered to actually research the case before ranting about it on air today. Because had he done so, he would have found this piece in the Washington Post written by Gutman last year chronicling the false accusations against him and how he was eventually exonerated by the State Department:
Less than two weeks later, in June 2013, with six weeks to go in the ambassadorship, my life imploded. Back in 2011, I had been called back to Washington to answer questions about reports that I had been seen without my security and possibly talking to drug dealers or prostitutes in the park on which we lived. I had explained to two senior State Department officials the rules in Belgium as to when ambassadors could be without security, and said I had talked to hundreds of people as I walked through the park over the years, but none was a drug dealer or prostitute that I knew of.
I had heard nothing more about the questions for nearly two years, when a former member of the State Department’s inspector general office claimed that Clinton had covered up eight cases of alleged wrongdoing, including one ambassador who had “solicited” prostitutes in a park. A New York tabloid named me as the ambassador, creating a near-deafening roar in Belgium, across the Internet and throughout my world.
The leading Belgian newspaper filled the front four pages with coverage (though many of the stories were helpful, including one explaining that there had been no reports of any illegal activity in the park in the four years I had lived in Belgium and another quoting Belgian security officers explaining that they had often watched me without my knowledge, even when I did not have security, and that I had never engaged in any questionable activity). As the days passed, the stories online morphed as if part of an Internet game of telephone, growing uglier and more disgusting.
Fully aware of the truth, the State Department raised no questions or concerns, informing me simply to go about my business as ambassador. It requested that I limit my denial to a two-sentence press release and refuse to be distracted. I agreed, even as my voice too-often quivered with a combination of rage and forlornness.
Over the next weeks, I lost 17 pounds, relying principally on a diet of Xanax. My wife and family, who knew the park and thus knew the truth, were sources of great encouragement but, like me, could do virtually nothing to prevent the continuing devastation. I tried my best to serve the remaining month and a half with dignity, refusing to miss a single event, and got the sense that, seeing that I remained ambassador for my full term, Belgians were beginning to understand how unfairly I had been treated. I prayed that the State Department would exonerate me quickly, but bureaucracy moves slowly.
Fifteen months after the leak of the long-discredited allegation, the State Department without notice released the words I had long awaited. As written in the Nelson Report, a daily newsletter on international events for political Washington:
“State Department Apologizes to Ambassador Howard Gutman.
“When good people get smeared by leaks, it is a rare sunny day when they are publicly exonerated. But with the release of the Office of the Inspector General report covering the wrongful leak 15 months ago of previously-discredited allegations of wrongdoing, the Department of State put out the following statement apologizing to former U.S. Ambassador to Belgium Howard Gutman and others:
“The Inspector General’s report makes clear there was no wrongdoing and that the allegations wrongfully leaked from internal OIG documents were in fact unsubstantiated. It can’t erase the pain these leaks caused those public servants who were falsely accused, but it does vindicate them and puts an end to a painful chapter for many.”
Largely ignored here, in Belgium the State Department’s apology made prime-time news. Facebook and e-mails would have to suffice to get the word out here, and cleaning up the Google page will be a lifelong project. But Obama was right. Deeds and accomplishments, not a Google page, define a person. And my world, having waited patiently to see the color return to my face, responded with joy and congratulations. Fifteen months after getting punched in the gut, it was time finally to take a breath.