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(Updated) Did Lawrence O'Donnell Imply Glenn Beck is Gay?

"I was shocked"

MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell has long been trying to get a rise out of Glenn Beck. He regularly devotes segments of his TV show to the Fox News host, and some could even confuse his program for a division of Media Matters. But O'Donnell's shots at Beck may have sunk to a new low last night when he mocked Glenn's sexuality.

During the waning moments of his show's video opener, O'Donnell tucked away this little gem regarding Beck's interview with Rep. Paul Ryan yesterday: “The Republican budget plan softens Glenn Beck’s feelings about gay marriage,” O'Donnell said, before playing a clip of Beck telling Ryan, “I love you,” and Ryan replying, "I love you, too:"

Mediaite's Tommy Christopher was appalled by what O'Donnell was insinuating:

The problem of stigmatizing gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people is a deadly serious issue that I’ve written about repeatedly. While liberals are generally considered to be more LGBT-friendly than conservatives, at least policy-wise, liberals aren’t automatically above an lgbt-phobic insult. Even with that knowledge, I was shocked by the shot that Lawrence O’Donnell took at Glenn Beck and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), during the intro to Tuesday night’s The Last Word, mocking the pair as gay. [...]

To some, O’Donnell’s crack may seem like nothing more than a juvenile schoolyard insult, which is likely how he intended it, but what he’s doing there is using the implication that Ryan and Beck are gay as an insult. Such stigmatizing behavior contributes to a hostile atmosphere that has resulted in a rash of high-profile suicides, among other things.

I think Christopher is on to something. Not only are O'Donnell's comments dripping with hypocrisy, but criticism of one's opinions shouldn't degenerate into a hypothesis of one's sexuality. And that is why I'm especially confused as to why Christopher's employer would publish another article, which essentially does the same thing as O'Donnell's segment:

Glenn Beck and Paul Ryan sitting in a tree,

K-I-S-S-I-N-G,

First comes “I love you,”

Then “I love you too,”

Then a romantic radio interview!

That's how Mediaite's other article (under the heading "Columnists"), which was published before Christopher's, starts. Its author goes on to pretend to be witnessing young love at a high school, going as far as to say, "Seriously, you guys, I think Glenn and Paul are totally like a couple now!"

I am more than willing to concede that O'Donnell, like Christopher says, was being cheeky. I think Mediaite was, too. But if O'donnell's comments are still appalling, shouldn't the insinuation in the other article spark just as much condemnation?

In the end, though, the more important question to ask is this: if the only criticism some can muster from an interview between Beck and the House Budget Committee Chairman is the "juvenile" assertion that the interviewer and interviewee are gay, isn't that telling? You might conclude it must have been a great interview then. Listen for yourself here.

UPDATE:

I e-mailed with both Tommy Christopher and Jon Bershad, the author of the "other" piece on Mediaite. Both defended their articles on the grounds that Bershad wasn't implying Beck was gay as much as it was saying that Beck was fawning over, and being a cheerleader for, Ryan. Here's what Bershad explained:

"I think, if I had to make a distinction, my post was implying that Glenn Beck was behaving like someone with a schoolyard crush and not a journalist interviewing a powerful politician, whereas O'Donnell was implying he is a gay man.

Basically, I was accusing him of having a Chris Matthews "tingle" moment which, as Ryan advances, this will almost certainly be seen as. The scorn didn't come from saying the word "love" so much (which would imply that loving a man is wrong) but rather the tone of Beck's comments ("white horse," "feeling" the State of the Union). It's a small distinction I know, but it's the difference between homophobic and "cheerleadophobic."

In retrospect, I should have made the Matthews connection more clear. However, I stand by my admittedly (and purposefully so) silly post."

"The key difference is that O'Donnell's shot stigmatized gays," Christopher added. "Being gay was the insult. Jon's post not only didn't stigmatize gay relationships, it was completely neutral on them."

I can see the distinction both are making. But, as Bershad sad, it's a "small" one. Still, it's a distinction nonetheless.
One last thing…
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