Fox News commentator Glenn Beck said the hundreds of thousands who attended his Aug. 28 rally in Washington were expressing a deep dissatisfaction with the direction of the country under the Obama administration.
“People aren’t happy about things,” he said in an interview on the “Fox News Sunday” program yesterday. “A good number of people are not happy with the direction we’re going.”
The “Restoring Honor” rally was billed as a “nonpolitical” celebration of the military, patriotism and American heritage. Beck, 46, shied away from the partisan commentary that has made him famous during the rally, focusing instead on religious themes.
“There’s nothing we can do that will solve the problems that we have and keep the peace unless we solve it through God,” Beck said in the Fox interview.
Asked about the Beck rally, President Barack Obama told “NBC Nightly News With Brian Williams” that he didn’t watch it but that he understood the anxiety among some Americans.
“I think that Mr. Beck and-- the rest of those folks were exercising-- their rights under our Constitution exactly as they should,” Obama said.
Beck and Sarah Palin, the 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate and now a contributor to News Corp.’s Fox News, are both stars of the Tea Party movement, a coalition of voters seeking limits on government spending, taxes and debt.
Beck and Palin exhorted the crowd of fans and activists to embrace religion and the nation’s traditional values, from a stage at the Lincoln Memorial where Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech exactly 47 years earlier.
Turning to God
“Something beyond imagination is happening,” Beck said, looking out onto a sea of people before him on the National Mall. “America today begins to turn back to God.”
Palin, 46, urged attendees to “restore America” by displaying the kind of courage shown by leaders before them.
“You have the same steel spine and moral courage as Washington and Lincoln and Martin Luther King,” she said. “It will sustain you, as it sustained them.”
Beck said the event raised $5.5 million for Special Operations Warrior Foundation, which assists veterans and their families.
The gathering began assembling before dawn as people carrying lawn chairs and water arrived. Attendees, many wearing patriotic outfits or T-shirts from local Tea Party groups, were discouraged from bringing signs and no current officeholders were allowed to speak.
While there is no official source for such estimates on the National Mall, Beck told the audience that the accounting from his vantage point showed more than 500,000 people. NBC News estimated turnout at closer to 300,000.
Beck has said it is a coincidence that his event was held on the anniversary of King’s speech. Still, he said on Fox that the rally “reclaimed” the civil rights movement for people of all races.
“This is about we the people,” said Coral Haven, a 62-year-old from Crescent City, Florida, at the rally.
Rick Majors, an electrician from Delaware, said he waited an hour to get on the subway to travel to the rally because the crowds were so large.
“I think we’re going to see a big change in November,” he said. “The government is involved with too much, trying to control too much.”
The rally took place at about the same time as another in Washington organized by the Reverend Al Sharpton and other civil rights leaders to commemorate King’s speech.
Sharpton referred to the Beck event in his remarks before a march to the National Mall. “They ought to read Dr. King’s speech,” he said. “Then they ought to talk to some of us who walked up the rough side of the mountain.”
Last year Beck said on Fox that President Barack Obama is a “racist” with a “deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture.” Beck told Fox News yesterday that he regretted his comments and “miscast” Obama.
While the rally was designed as apolitical, there was plenty of political activity before and after. Americans for Prosperity, a group with Tea Party ties, held its political action convention in Washington over the weekend and bused people to Beck’s event.
Activists gathered at a warm-up event Aug. 27 organized by FreedomWorks, an advocacy group affiliated with the Tea Party, to listen to candidates and pick up campaign signs supporting Tea Party-backed candidates.
“What happens this year will make what happened in 1994 look like a Sunday picnic,” Mike Lee, a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in Utah, told the gathering, in a reference to Republicans gaining control of the House in that year’s election.
Political newcomer Joe Miller, a Tea Party-endorsed Senate candidate who is leading Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski by 1,668 votes in the state’s Republican primary election, said yesterday that politicians backed by the movement simply want to “restore the constitutional foundation of the country.”
Miller said the Constitution favors his support for privatizing Social Security and phasing out Medicare.
“If one thinks that the Constitution is extreme then you’d also think that the founders are extreme,” he said on the CBS “Face the Nation” program. “We just simply want to get back to basics.”