It's certainly not surprising that the New York Times would publish a hit piece on Glenn Beck, but coming hours after CNN's Howard Kurtz spent almost ten minutes bashing the Fox News commentator makes me smell a rat.
Add to this the increased pressure Beck has come up against from MSNBC personalities since Keith Olbermann surprisingly left America's most liberal television news network in January, and one has to wonder what Times author David Carr had in mind with his Monday piece "The Fading Power of Beck’s Alarms":
Since last August, when he summoned more than 100,000 followers to the Washington mall for the “Restoring Honor” rally, Mr. Beck has lost over a third of his audience on Fox — a greater percentage drop than other hosts at Fox. True, he fell from the great heights of the health care debate in January 2010, but there has been worrisome erosion — more than one million viewers — especially in the younger demographic.
He still has numbers that just about any cable news host would envy and, with about two million viewers a night, outdraws all his competition combined. But the erosion is significant enough that Fox News officials are willing to say — anonymously, of course; they don’t want to be identified as criticizing the talent — that they are looking at the end of his contract in December and contemplating life without Mr. Beck.
On Thursday, Beck garnered almost two million total viewers. Not only is that more than his combined "competition" on CNN, HLN, and MSNBC, it is more than any show on those networks gets at any time of the day.
Frankly, no one is even close.
Within his own network, Beck's numbers are consistently higher than Shepard Smith's and Greta Van Susteren's while typically being on par with Bret Baier's and Sean Hannity's. Only Bill O'Reilly consistently bests Beck.
Is that the kind of commentator you want to get rid of?
Consider, too, that Beck and O'Reilly seem to have a solid working relationship with the former a frequent program guest of the latter and the duo going on a nationwide tour last year. Clearly, Fox's number one star shows no concern for his colleague across the hall.
For his part, Carr offered not one named source inside or outside of the Fox organization claiming the top-rated cable news network is even considering dumping one of its top-rated stars. Instead, Carr offered innuendo:
What had been a fast and loose assault on all things liberal has grown darker and less entertaining, especially with the growing revolution in the Middle East, a phenomenon Mr. Beck sees as something of a beginning to some kind of end. He’s often alone in the studio with his chalkboards and obscure factoids, a setting that reminds me of an undergrad seminar on macroeconomics with an around-the-bend professor I didn’t particularly enjoy. [...]
Part of Mr. Beck’s appeal is that he seems as if he is about to lose his marbles. But recently, he acts like he’s a little tired of the game. He can still draw a huge crowd, but he looks lonely in that studio all by himself.
As NewsBusters has been reporting for weeks, many MSNBCers - including Beck's competition at 5:00 PM Chris Matthews - have been aggressively attacking him since Olbermann's departure.
In a period from late January to early February, the "Hardball" host bashed Beck six nights in a row. Matthews went after him twice last week.
Compounding the intrigue, as NewsBusters reported Sunday, CNN's Howard Kurtz did an almost ten minute segment on "Reliable Sources" bashing the Fox News star with the help of conservatives David Frum and Jennifer Rubin.
Kurtz teased at the top of the show, "Glenn Beck is drawing sharp criticism these days from the right. Some conservative commentators speaking out against the Fox News star, saying he's hurting their cause, which raises the question, has Beck finally gone too far?"
This coming hours before the Times published a lengthy hit piece on Beck has to make you wonder if the liberal media have finally had enough of him and are beginning to mount a full-scale assault to get Fox to not renew his contract.
As we learned from last year's JournoList scandal, nothing is beyond these people.