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Beck’s Unenhanced Interrogation of Eric Massa Turns Up No Actionable Intelligence

Reported by Ellen - March 10, 2010 -

Poor Glenn Beck. His big get of an interview with Eric Massa yesterday (3/9/10) not only failed to turn up any anti-progressive dirt, the kind he was obviously hoping would help fertilize his “Tree of Revolution,” the whole thing backfired and made him a laughingstock. There has been a lot of excellent analysis written already about the interview and why it failed. But my .02 is that Beck’s poor interviewing skills had much to do with it. Rather than skillfully probe and prod his guest into telling his story, Beck flailed around with his questions, alternately pushing for the damaging information he so clearly wanted and alternately making known his disgust and disappointment - not a good tactic for getting information from someone. The result was that Beck allowed Massa to contradict himself and then overlooked openings that might have led to a more fruitful outcome. In the end, Beck threw up his hands and confessed he had wasted his viewers’ time. With video.

Early in the interview, Beck said, “Tell me your story on Rahm Emanuel and the whole naked shower scene.”

Instead, Massa began talking about his cancer.

Beck, perhaps trying to be polite, allowed Massa to whip out his X-Ray and natter on about his illness, until, finally, he said, “ “Nobody from the Ethics Committee talked to me not even yet. Not a word… Everything I know about it, I learned from Mr. Gibbs and from the internet.”

Beck might have gotten some dirt by asking something like, “Does the Ethics Committee usually operate in such secrecy?” Or even “What, exactly, do you think they are investigating?” Instead, he asked, blandly and uninterestingly, “How long have they been investigating you?”

That allowed Massa to ramble on about the Committee being a “Star Chamber” as Beck looked on with disapproval.

Then, Massa, who had just complained that the complete secrecy of the Committee had prevented him from knowing anything about the investigation said, “But they didn’t even follow the procedures of secrecy because they started leaking things here and there.”

Beck didn’t seem to think it worth noting that Massa had just contradicted himself (perhaps because discrediting Massa did not fit into Beck’s grand scheme of using him to discredit the Democrats) and didn’t bother to ask what had been leaked and what, in fact, Massa had learned from whom. And yet, Beck had gotten nothing about Emanuel in the entire segment, either. He had already lost control of the interview and never got it back.

Later, Beck asked again for the story about Emanuel. But somehow, we never got much of a story. Or at least nothing new. “Tell me what happened (with Emanuel),” Beck said.

Massa said that Emanuel was angry at him during a fight over the budget. “He poked his finger in my chest while I was taking a shower… I’ll never forget it. Rahm Emanuel hates me… I get it… I learned in just a year… you can either go along and get along or you can literally be bought and sold legally.”

There was another opportunity for Beck to probe. How would Emanuel “buy and sell” Massa legally? What other Congress people had been bought and sold, for what, how and by whom?

Instead, Beck got distracted by his own distrust of Massa. “So why would you abandon a system? …You were willing to die for your country.”

At the end of one of the segments, Beck tried again, “OK, then when we come back, make a difference for the next half hour. Tell America – name names. Tell America what you know that we don’t know. What do you know that we need to know?” But again, instead of pushing for names, asking about, say, Massa’s other interactions with Emanuel or Emanuel’s interactions with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Beck peevishly said, “Pick up a shovel and tell us where to throw the dirt.”

And Massa skated again. “The most important thing that people can do is to get involved… And vote.”

“Please don’t be a commercial… Everybody knows that,” Beck snapped.

Beck complained, “With what you’re saying to me, this is the image that I got in my head… The World Trade Center is on fire. You’re a fireman coming out and I’m standing there saying, ‘What do I do?’ and you say to me, ‘You’ve got to get better 911 service in the helmets of our firefighters.’ The building’s gonna come down before we can do that… You’ve been in the building… Tell me something about the unions and how the unions are working or any corru (he sounded like he was going to say “corruption”) or any – I don’t care. Any kind of corruption. Tell me about, what is the White House doing.”

Probably inadvertently, Beck was acknowledging that he was not in charge of the situation - his own show. As far as the interview went (and not the “burning” Congress), Beck should not have been standing there helplessly asking “What do I do?” but finding out from “Fireman” Massa what he had found and done.

Instead, Massa skated again. “It’s not just unions. It’s every special interest calls their member of congress and says on each particular piece of legislation, ‘You vote this way.’”

“Is there arm twisting going on?” Beck almost began to sound desperate for something, anything he could use to justify having done the interview, which he had already gotten flak for doing.

“So much arm twisting… you’d better get a full squad of docs in there to set the broken bones,” Massa quipped, to Beck's obvious non-amusement.

But instead of asking for details – whose arms had been twisted, and by whom, how – Beck’s peevishness trumped his curiosity. “Is there anything new to your charges?”

“I’m just telling you what I learned in 14 months in the United States Congress. By the way, a Congress I deeply love,” Massa said.

The Congress he deeply loves that he’s bailing on that he says is screwing him and setting him up and that he can’t stop trashing? Not surprisingly, Beck didn’t follow up.

Sadly, as Eric Boehling, at Media Matters noted, “Beck's Hindenburg performance last night will probably do more damage to his reputation, at least among Beltway scribes, than the endless falsehoods and vicious smears he's launched. Why? Because last night, Beck was guilty of the deadliest media sin of all: producing god-awful television.”

Near the end of the program, in the second video below, Beck confessed the whole interview had been a waste of time.