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UPDATED: Glenn Beck goes after Color of Change co-founder Van Jones

August 24, 2009 |  3:41 pm

Beck

Glenn Beck used his popular Fox News show this afternoon to attack the background of Van Jones, a White House environmental advisor who co-founded an African American political advocacy group that organized an advertising boycott of his program.

During his 2 p.m. PDT show, Beck did not address the boycott spearheaded by Color of Change to protest the talk show host’s remark last month that he believes President Obama is “a racist.” 

Instead, he spent a large share of his program suggesting that Jones, who co-founded Color of Change in 2005, is a radical. Jones now serves as a special advisor for Green Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation at the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

During a six-minute biographical profile, set to ominous music, Beck said Jones was twice arrested for political protests and has described himself as a "rowdy black nationalist." The talk show host cast the piece as part of a broader examination of Obama's "czars," special advisers to the president who "don't answer to anybody."

"Why is it that such a committed revolutionary has made it so high into the Obama administration as one of his chief advisers?" Beck asked.

Christine Glunz, a spokeswoman for the White House Council on Environmental Quality, noted that Jones has been lauded as an environmental hero and said his entire focus is on “building clean energy incentives which create 21st-century jobs.”

“Glenn Beck is trying to change the subject,” said James Rucker, executive director of Color of Change, who noted that Jones has not been active with the group in almost two years. “The issue is his baseless fear mongering.”

Beck has gone after Jones in the past. On July 28, he called the activist a "self-professed communist" and questioned the role he was playing in the administration. His latest assault on Jones came as Color of Change announced that it has secured commitments from 36 companies who have pledged not to advertise on Beck’s popular program, including Wal-Mart and Sprint. However, some of the companies never had a presence on "Glenn Beck." Representatives of Procter & Gamble and AT&T – listed by Color of Change as companies that had signed onto the boycott – told The Times that their companies did not run spots on Beck’s program to begin with.

While the advertising boycott has generated substantial media coverage, Fox News said it has not impacted the network’s revenues or Beck’s audience. "The advertisers referenced have all moved their spots from Beck to other programs on the network so there has been no revenue lost," a spokeswoman said.

Since his Fox News show launched in January, Beck has attracted a sizable audience with his strident denunciations of the Obama administration and apocalyptic warnings about the country’s direction. Late last month, during an appearance on the morning show “Fox & Friends,” he accused Obama of having “a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture.”

“This guy is, I believe, a racist,” he added.

The flap that ensued did not appear to dampen Beck’s viewership. This month, his show has averaged 2.25 million viewers, 99% more than tuned in during the same period last year, when the network aired “America’s Election HQ” during the time period. And his ratings are up from July, when Beck's program averaged 2.05 million viewers. Fan websites such as Defend Glenn have called for viewers to fight back against the advertising boycott, and some media veterans have denounced the tactic as a suppression of free speech.

The controversy has triggered a broader discussion about the risks to advertisers of running commercials amid the incendiary rhetoric of cable talk shows. Clorox announced last week that it was pulling its ads off all political talk shows.

"We do not want to be associated with inflammatory speech used by either liberal or conservative talk show host,” the company said in a statement. “After a comprehensive review of political talks shows across the spectrum, at this time we have made a decision not to advertise on them. Clorox has done very little advertising on political talk shows overall, and given the sometimes inflammatory nature of these shows, we feel our advertising investment is best directed elsewhere.”

-- Matea Gold

File photo of Glenn Beck by Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

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