Today, Glenn Beck looks almost nothing like the clean-shaven pundit who became famous delivering tearful Fox News monologues and emceeing Tea Party rallies. He has traded his signature dress shirts for scholarly sweater vests, horn-rimmed glasses, and a sage Vandyke beard. He also has a new role to match: as an anti-impeachment conspiracist who, for much of October and November, used his show on BlazeTV to unravel a bizarre theory about the Democrats’ alleged misdeeds in Ukraine—a mystery story he likened to “a bad episode of Columbo.”
It’s hard to remember now, but not long ago, Beck seemed to have given up such antics. In 2016, he likened Donald Trump to Hitler and mimicked his orange tan by sticking his face in a bowl of crushed Cheetos. (Trump derided Beck, in turn, as a “weird dude” who is “always crying.”) Beck later told The New Yorker that Obama made him “a better man” and warned The New York Times that Trump was “dangerous.” Pandering to liberals, though, is hardly a winning strategy when you run a conservative media company. By late 2016, Beck’s company was so mired in financial trouble that he would soon face the indignity of selling off his private plane.
Over the next few years, he quietly pivoted back to scaremongering, praising Trump as a lone “alpha dog” in a world where “we have ... shot them all.” As the Ukraine scandal ballooned into an impeachment trial, Beck asserted not only that Trump was innocent of wrongdoing, but also that Democrats were guilty of “coercion, corruption, greed” in Ukraine. His fusty sweater vests and professorial beard are designed to lend him an air of authority as he paces in front of no fewer than four chalkboards, delivering manic monologues about the DNC, FBI, IMF, and a cast of at least nine Ukrainian political figures.
In his breathless attempts to connect dots where none exist, Beck is offering up a distinct alternative to the mainstream GOP’s response to impeachment. Establishment Republicans and even some Fox News anchors have airily dismissed the investigation by saying “there’s nothing there” (Lindsey Graham), but fringe contingents of the right have gone all-in on an ever more dubious yarn that frames Ukraine as a place where Democrats are guilty. And now that rabid Trumpist Representatives Matt Gaetz of Florida and Jim Jordan of Ohio are quarterbacking the GOP’s impeachment defense, we should be prepared to see Beck’s nutty tale gaining an extended hearing on Capitol Hill.