Liberals love a redemption narrative, which means that lately, they've been warming to conservative media firebrand Glenn Beck.
Beck, who backed Ted Cruz—the candidate saying we need to "patrol and secure" Muslim neighborhoods—during the Republican primary, has been on quite the apology tour since the election as part of his effort to supposedly atone for his sins and warn about the dangers of President-elect Donald Trump.
That's how he came to be on, of all places, "Full Frontal with Samantha Bee" on Monday night, for what was undoubtedly the most nauseating stop on his tour.
Bee, the internet’s favorite Trump-slaying feminist comedian, and Beck had some contrived initial weirdness, after which she leveled with the reviled conservative talking head about why she invited him on the show.
“I think that our future is going to require a broad coalition of nonpartisan decency," she said. "It’s not just individual people against Donald Trump, it’s all of us against Trumpism. I actually think it’s important to reach into places we wouldn’t normally reach.”
Beck agreed, saying, “As a guy who has done damage, I don’t want to do any more damage. I know what I did.”
“I helped divide—I’m willing to take that,” Beck continued. “My message to you is, please don’t make the mistakes I made. And I think all of us are doing it. We’re doing it on Facebook, we’re doing it on Twitter. We tear each other apart and we don’t see the human on the other side.”
Bee went on to recount how Beck, who founded The Blaze conservative media group, now supports charities for undocumented children at the border and women who have fled ISIS.
“He seems to be a deeply sincere and decent person,” Bee concluded, before doing a Lucy and Charlie Brown bit, eating cake, and literally holding hands with Beck for the camera.
It’s not for me to divine if Beck’s ideological about-face is genuine, but he’s certainly working at it (although the transformation may not be total; in an op-ed he wrote for The New York Times, Beck said he hasn't done a one-eighty on Black Lives Matter but called for "empathy.")
Whatever the case, Beck comes with an insane amount of baggage. He’s the guy who infamously called President Obama a “racist” with "a deep-seated hatred for white people” and blamed him for the Paris attacks. Back when Beck was on Fox News, he regularly took to a chalkboard to manically trace the Democrats’ striking similarities with the Nazis and used dog whistle anti-Semitic imagery to accuse billionaire donor George Soros of assembling a vast cabal of activists and politicians. On the radio, he portrayed himself as a conservative hero, a “progressive hunter,” and accused his political opponents of being ready to take up arms against him at any hour.
Bee didn’t mention much of that.
So while it’s nice that Beck is finally owning up to his role in creating the anti-truth, media-hating Trumpian hellscape where we now live, it’s worth wondering how easily we should let him off the hook and what other issues could be at play here. So far, the effect of Beck’s atonement mostly just seems to be that it's making liberals feel good—which, as of now, means very little.
By not fully disclosing her guest’s history of violent rhetoric and full-blown conspiracy theories–and the vast, immeasurable effects that came from Beck having a platform to spew that garbage for years and years and years–Bee isn’t forging an actionable coalition for the future. When the rubber hits the road, Beck is not going to be a reliable ally in the real battles that need to be fought against Donald Trump—and by making him appear as if he is, Bee is only doing her viewers a disservice.