Glenn Beck factual error

Glenn Beck often does great research and reporting on stories that the rest of the media fail to cover. His deconstruction of the Woodrow Wilson administration is long overdue. However, his reporting is sometimes inexcusably sloppy. All the more so considering that Beck, a television host on a major network, is not exactly bereft of research resources. Consider, for example, the ballot initiative in Portland, Maine, to allow legal resident non-citizens to vote in municipal elections. (See issue #4.) On the October 25 TV show, Beck incorrectly characterized the proposal as allowing illegal aliens to vote.

It took me just a few minutes of web searching to find the actual text of the Portland initiative. It was irresponsible, and a gross dereliction of journalistic duty, for Beck and his staff to smear Portland’s reputation without having invested the minimal time to research the story properly.

It would have been even better if Beck, whose show often features good research on American history, to acknowledge that in the 18th and 19th centuries, many states and municipalities allowed voting by non-citizen immigrants. See, e.g., this report by the Center for Immigration Studies, an organization which favors much stronger policies against illegal immigration, as well as greater restrictions on legal immigration.

As a policy matter, I agree with the CIS in opposing state or local voting by legal resident non-citizens. But there’s no excuse for Beck making the patently incorrect claim that Portland is considering an initiative to allow voting by illegal aliens. Every journalist, from the lowliest blogger to media superstars like Glenn Beck, should conscientiously strive for factual accuracy. Across the political spectrum, the media too often fall short of factual accuracy. Because Mr. Beck appears to sincerely believe in “restoring honor,”  and particularly because Mr. Beck often delivers his stories in a mode of high dudgeon, it would be better if he were especially scrupulous about factual accuracy.

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