Another day, another feud between cable-news talking heads. The question is: Are these feuds necessary?
This latest dustup is between liberal Ed Schultz of MSNBC and rightie Glenn Beck of Fox News Channel (and syndicated radio). OK, so it’s not exactly Bill O’Reilly and Keith Olbermann (don’t you miss those?), but it will have to do.
In case you didn’t know (and judging by the ratings, many of you don’t), Ed Schultz is host of “The Ed Show” (“Mr. Ed” was already taken), seen Monday through Thursday at 10 p.m./9c. And Beck – who’s far better known than Schultz – is the guy whose points-of-view are too extreme even for FNC, and he’s due to part company with the cable channel later this year.
On “The Ed Show” this past Wednesday, Schultz went after Beck, complaining that Beck seemed to be advocating violence against the President of the United States. It was part of Schultz’s critique of “right-wing” talk radio personalities in general – who Schultz thinks have been advocating violence a bit a too often lately.
According to this account on The Huffington Post earlier this week, Schultz was agitated by an Atlanta radio personality named Neal Boortz who said something on the air about every law-abiding citizens buying guns and then mowing down street thugs, or some such.
Beck reportedly made a similar statement earlier this week about the need for all us average Joes to buy guns “to prepare for tough times.” When he said it, he seemed to be pointing (with his index finger, not a pistol) in the direction of an on-screen photo of President Obama.
Based on this, Schultz concluded that Glenn Beck was advocating the assassination of the president. Predictably, Beck said on his Thursday radio show that he advocated no such thing. He was pointing at his chalkboard, he said – where the word “prepare” happened to be written – not the picture of the president.
“This guy is such a piece of trash,” Mr. Beck said of Mr. Ed, according to a followup story on HuffPost. “The camera angle made it look like I was pointing to the screen behind me. And this guy uses that.” Then Beck complained that there’s no “honor” in television (like the old saying about there being “no honor among thieves,” presumably).
Beck said this “honor deficit” (our phrase, not his) is the reason he’s leaving television.
The question remains: What good are these feuds? In the case of this one, it would seem to benefit only Ed Schultz, who can use the publicity more than Beck. And while these feuds are fun for us to write about, we’ve always said the best way for a show to grow its ratings is for its host and producers to focus on what they can do better, not what some other show on some other network should be doing.
If nothing else, complaining about the other guy only gives the other guy free publicity. That can’t be good strategy, can it?