Glenn Beck F-Word Controversy

John Aravois is outraged that CNN is defending Glenn Beck’s use of the word “faggot” on its airwaves and urging a letter writing campaigns to the network’s major sponsors.

I’d somehow missed the controversy. It turns out that Beck only used the word in the context of discussing the controversy over Grey’s Anatomy co-star Isaiah Washington’s use. Here’s the exchange between Beck and radio host Dave Glover from the transcript:

GLOVER: Yes. Basically you have Isaiah Washington, who`s one of the stars of the show, who referred to one of his co-stars during a heated argument as a derogatory term for a gay man that starts with “F”, rhymes with maggot. Did it a couple more times after that. And do you like how I did that?

BECK: Yes.


BECK: Do you know that “The New York Times” wouldn’t even print — I mean, we can say the word. We’re having an adult conversation here. Wouldn`t even print the word “fagot.”

GLOVER: Right.

BECK: Wouldn’t print it. I find that amazing.

Presumably, it’s the transcriber who is unable to spell “faggot,” not Beck.

Nothing particularly controversial there, other than that he dares to utter the word and arguing that it’s silly to discuss the controversy without using the word. At that point, he goes on to deride Washington as a “jerk.”

GLOVER: When did we elevate obnoxious behavior to a medical condition? You know, I mean, when is just being a jerk, an obnoxious jerk mean that you now have to go to rehab? We`d be having the same conversation each week.

BECK: It`s Michael Richards and before that it was Mel Gibson. It`s the same damn story.

GLOVER: Yes. It is the same story. And we need to stop. Just call it what it is, OK? When someone acts in an obnoxious way, they are being a jerk. If people do it enough, they are a jerk, and it doesn`t mean that they have a genetic condition that makes them do it.

It means they`re a jerk and they need to study and grow up, be a man and stop acting like a jerk, not go seek out medical attention or, you know, spiritual counseling. Just stop it.

Aravosis is upset that Beck subsequently defends “faggot” as merely a “naughty word,” observing that “Faggot is the n-word to gays.”

Yet, Aravosis uses the word several times in his post. In the same way Beck did: to discuss an ongoing controversy.
That’s entirely appropriate.

Washington’s use of the word “faggot,” in an argument with gay castmate T.R. Knight, was a slur. It was meant to be hurtful. Beck’s use–and Aravosis’ and mine–is merely the repetition of a “naughty word” in an adult conversation about it. Those are quite different things. And I can’t imagine that intelligent gays wouldn’t implicitly understand that.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. of the Senate” discussing “race relations”? Their “concern” about discrimination based on orientation is highly laughable considering they used the very same term on their website a few days ago… You can also click here for another perspective. I hope you had a great day! [IMG] Currently listening : The Best of the Early Years By Luther Barnes & the Sunset Jubilaires Release date: By 07 November, 2000

  2. Stormy70 says:

    They just hate Glenn Beck and are looking for a reason to freak out on him. This is an overreaction on their part.

  3. Bithead says:

    I’m with Stormy.
    If there was ever an induication that the original complaint from Washington was simply a tool to attract attention, it’s this nonsense being used against Beck.

  4. Caliban Darklock says:

    A black friend of mine, whom I’ve known for many years, has long been of the opinion that “the N-word” is more racist than “nigger”.

    His explanation is that when you say “the N-word”, you thought “nigger”. You meant “nigger”. Everybody in your audience heard “nigger”. But now you want credit for not actually saying “nigger”.

    So he proposes a test: take any racist statement, about any racial group, and rewrite it with “N-word” instead of the racial slur. The result is still racist and still offensive. Saying “the N-word” instead of “nigger” doesn’t make your statements any less racist.

    What needs work isn’t using the word “nigger”, but saying things that need to use the word “nigger”. If you can’t figure out how to say it without that word, just use the word! Playing games with it isn’t going to improve things!

    Same thing with “faggot”. If you can’t say what you need to say without saying “faggot”, then what you are saying is inherently offensive to gays anyway. Just say “faggot”. It can’t make things worse.

    What we need to do is rob these words of their power. The words “nigger” and “faggot” are already used within their respective communities as terms of endearment and respect. Their meanings can change and become less intolerant, simply by using them in less intolerant ways. When you refer to blacks as “niggers” and gays as “faggots”, but you don’t hate either group, you make one tiny little step toward divorcing these words from hatred.

    In time, they’ll just be words. Just like “mick” and “wop”, formerly fighting words for Irish and Italian immigrants, they’ll become quaint terms that don’t really offend anyone. I suggest that this would be an advance.

  5. Patrick McGuire says:

    Me thinks the lady doth protest too much!

  6. […] Such is the case with liberal blogger John Aravois, who, as James Joyner reports, is targeting Glenn Beck’s TV program because he used the “f” word (the slang word sometimes used for gay people) in the context of a discussion about how the actor in Hollywood who used it (Isiah Washington from Grey’s Anatomy) is under fire from gay groups. Here’s the relevant part of the transcript from Beck’s show. Beck’s interviewing with 97.1 FM St Louis radio host Dave Glover: GLOVER: Yes. Basically you have Isaiah Washington, who`s one of the stars of the show, who referred to one of his co-stars during a heated argument as a derogatory term for a gay man that starts with “F”, rhymes with maggot. Did it a couple more times after that. And do you like how I did that? […]

  7. Mark Rose says:

    I totally agree with Caliban Darklock above – thank you for that thoughtful post. In my neighborhood, the upper west side of Manhattan, near Harlem, I hear nigger all day long. It’s the favorite word of black kids on the street – they use it for emphasis, for slang, for I don’t know what. Especially when they refer to that “Chinese nigger.”

    The New York Times not using faggot? The absence is worse than the use. Weird. But then the Times took years to actually use gay instead of homosexual. It is the intent of the word, not the word, that hurts. Where is Lenny Bruce when we need him?

  8. Since I’ve Been Gone…

    I missed the State of the Union Address. I missed National Sanctity of Life Day. I missed the Scooter Libby Trial (I think I can join in progress, though) – although I’ve read enough in the morning paper to wonder……