The Other McCain

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How Much Does Glenn Beck Pay Brian Sack to Make Tasteless Sarah Palin Jokes?

Posted on | September 16, 2011 | 28 Comments

Image from GBTV

“Regardless what you think of her, this rumor stuff is getting absolutely ridiculous. I don’t believe Sarah Palin slept with Glenn Rice, and this rumor-mongering is unfair to her kids — Track, Bristol, Willow, Piper, Trig and Dunky. Now, according to the book, it was a one-night stand. It was supposed to be a two-night stand, but she bailed halfway through.”
Brian Sack, GBTV, Sept. 15, 2011

The blogger at God and Country First:

Tonight Brain Sack made an extremely poor taste joke about Sarah Palin. Don’t we have enough of that crap in the lame stream? I am not going to pay $10.00 a month to hear more. Brian has made a few tasteless remarks the last few days. Tonight’s pushed me very close to canceling my account. I really think you should get rid of him, mostly because he is NOT funny. One more example of the lack of comedic talent from conservatives. . . .
Glenn, can you imagine the Palin family sitting around TV watching your show via Roku and expecting to hear healthy conservative truth, and then have to endure that tasteless joke from Brain Sack tonight.

God and Country First has the video clip, if you want to see Brian Sack introduced as the man who, according to Glenn Beck, is going to put Jon Stewart out of business — by making “woodpile” jokes about Republican women, we must presume.

Let me be the first to say that I am not in favor of banishing people to oblivion for one ill-advised remark. God knows I’ve made many ill-advised remarks in my time, and on occasion even in the same swampy terrain as the morass of bad taste into which Brian Sack suddenly plunged last night. Humor is always risky, and employing humor in political commentary doubly so, as any joke that pushes toward the edge will either make you a permanent target of your political enemies, or else offend some of your allies.

Sometimes, you’ll do both. When I noted the passing of Ted Kennedy with an item headlined, “Mary Jo Kopechne could not be reached for comment,” I obviously wasn’t trying to endear myself to liberals, but I dare say some conservatives probably shuddered at the violation of a maxim of civility, “Never speak ill of the dead.”

However, as Rush Limbaugh likes to say, he doesn’t need “balance” on his show because he is balance — a counterweight to the liberal media. And I knew that the moment Teddy joined that Great Quorum in the Sky, he would be universally lionized as a courageous crusader for social justice, with his Chappaquiddick disgrace treated as somehow a part of the Camelot “tragedy.” This version of the Ted Kennedy saga was and is a damnable lie, of course. Everything Ted Kennedy symbolized was wrong and sordid. In general, every political cause he supported was bad, his occasional vote for good things being more or less an accidental result of the Law of Large Numbers. Ted Kennedy was a vicious drunken degenerate, a liar, a coward and a bully who deserved no respect from anyone when he was alive, and in death he should be remembered only as a stain and a disgrace to his family, his party and his nation.

Ergo, “Mary Jo Kopechness could not be reached for comment,” and I’ll gladly suffer whatever disapproval that joke merits, as the joke was made to call attention to an important truth.

What purpose was served, however, by Brian Sack’s joke at Sarah Palin’s expense? It was just a cheap laugh. I’m sure we’ll get an apology from him (and from Glenn Beck) explaining that Sack’s joke was intended to portray the rumored affair with a black basketball star as laughably ridiculous. I get that, OK? And I also understand that, privately, Brian Sack and Glenn Beck will say that the outrage over this joke illustrates the think-skinned hypersensitive defensiveness of Palin’s admirers, and the can’t-take-a-joke nature of some conservatives.

Trust me, I empathize. It’s a tough room, as they say in stand-up.

Nevertheless, I worry about the tendency toward a bully-boy mentality that this one joke may suggest: Easy jokes at the expense of a soft target? Hey, let me crack a few Mormon “sacred underwear” gags at Glenn Beck’s expense and see how he like it.

Not having paid $10 for a GBTV subscription, and with no plans to do so, I’m not in a position to join anyone’s boycott and am not generally in favor of “cancel my subscription” protests. (CPAC boycott? Not this year. Not next year. Not in any imaginable year.) But I’d advise Glenn Beck and his producers to hire someone with an instinct for defending underdogs, so that the next time Sack gives into the bully-boy temptation, perhaps someone in the conference room will speak up to say, “Uh, Brian, are you sure you want to make that joke?”

ADDENDUM & UPDATE: Everybody in the comments tells me I’ve erred on the side of caution. (First time for everything, I suppose.)

Palin fans don’t find the joke particularly funny, but they don’t find it particularly offensive, either. OK, so as Charles G. Hill said, maybe “I don’t get out much or something,” and am hearing a dog-whistle tuned to a particular frequency that few others can hear. Maybe neither Glenn Beck nor Brian Sack has ever heard a woman derogated with a hyphenated slur so vicious that I hesitate even to allude to it.

Every man is the judge of his own honor, and if Todd and Sarah Palin aren’t offended by this “Dunky” joke, then this must be a rare instance where I’m guilty of “sensitivity.” But perhaps someone should send that video clip to Virginia Thomas and see if she finds it offensive.

Just sayin’ . . .


28 Responses to “How Much Does Glenn Beck Pay Brian Sack to Make Tasteless Sarah Palin Jokes?”

  1. Sherri
    September 16th, 2011 @ 12:06 pm

    Come on, Stacy. I am a HUGE Palin fan and I don’t find it tasteless in the least. Barely funny, sure. But that’s the way it is when someone jokes about Palin. Fact is, she did leave office early, justifiably so. The Glenn Rice rumor isn’t true at all. Not even liberals believe it. So, although she left office early, by using it in the way Sack did, it enters the not believable territory. That’s the way jokes are constructed. I suggest that some are still a bit too close to the material to be able to find humor in it.

  2. Anonymous
    September 16th, 2011 @ 12:09 pm

    I find your comment on Ted Kennedy grossly inoffensive.

    Good lord, man, it was so uncreative!

    In your defense, though, it was probably the last time you could use it, so I guess I could let it slide…

    J. (Who NEVER passed on an opportunity to mock Edward Moore Kennedy (D-Chivas))

  3. Matt Lewis
    September 16th, 2011 @ 12:10 pm

    I got a laugh out of it (I first learned about it by reading it here).  If it were a joke about her kids or something like that, it would be different.  The joke was about playing off of something she actually did in her official capacity (resigning).

    I agree that there are lots of stupid attacks on her (and on pretty much every other high profile politician).  But we also gotta know when to pull the trigger on out of bounds stuff, and when to laugh at ourselves.

  4. Cheryl Herin
    September 16th, 2011 @ 12:16 pm

    I agree with Sherri. I am also a Palin fan, and while I found the joke not particularly funny, it was not offensive. I think some conservatives can be as thin-skinned as Obama is. I hope some of Palin’s admirers don’t go the way of the Paul fans and go ballistic at the most minor criticism of Palin. 

  5. Anonymous
    September 16th, 2011 @ 12:41 pm

    This was the first time I’d even heard of Sack, so I don’t know how the Palin joke fits into his overall body of work. As far as I know, that’s his shtick – mediocre Palin bits.

    Going forward, if he wants to appeal to right-wing audiences, he simply needs to spread his targets around and, of course, be funnier. If he’s really talented, he’ll be able to capture the 10-percent of left-wingers who actually have a sense of humor even while comically savaging “progressive” figures.

  6. Cheryl Herin
    September 16th, 2011 @ 12:51 pm

    Brian Sack has been working with Glenn Beck since Beck’s show on Headline News. His humor hits mostly at libs, but occasionally he will make fun of conservatives. 

  7. Anonymous
    September 16th, 2011 @ 12:51 pm

    Brian’s not a fan of Palin. I think in part because he’s such a huge city boy.  As such, he probably wouldn’t understand her reasons for resignation, something I don’t think she explained very well.

    Don’t like the joke, but at least this isn’t the “Finally we don’t have to take her seriously because of some super small scandal or mistake” criticism. That is what always bugs me. Like the stuff Ace indulged in this week. “Yeah she coined another term, but there’s a chance she did some “crony capitalism” herself, to the tune of a vaccination!!!!” Just like Paul Revere, or the handwriting scandal, or all the other stuff splashed on the front page of Gawker.

    I think her treatment over Stacy’s report is a larger error than any of that, and even that’s understandable. I just hope she either super knows what she’s doing or grows out of that sensitive phase.  But I get it: it’s not easier trailblazing.

  8. 301 revisited
    September 16th, 2011 @ 12:59 pm

    The joke wasn’t funny.  If he left the joke with Sarah and Todd, that is expected.  Throw in Bristol because of the TV show @ living with two black actors.  But to end the joke with Trig was across the line 

  9. ThePaganTemple
    September 16th, 2011 @ 1:13 pm

    Yeah RSM you’re offended  by Sack’s joke, but not so offended that you can’t photoshop a pic of a little black kid into the foreground of a Palin family photo, right?

  10. BLBeamer
    September 16th, 2011 @ 1:15 pm

    I’m a Palin admirer who thought the joke was funny because it was tasteless.  What is wrong with you people? 

    I’m sorry, but Dunky’s picture cracks me up.

  11. Anonymous
    September 16th, 2011 @ 1:21 pm

    I agree with your/Sherri’s point about thin-skinned Paul and/or Palin supporters (Point A).

    Logically, though, Point A does not contradict Points B and C:

    Point B: the levels of malevolent media bias and pop culture “jokes” directed at Palin have been unprecedentedly high.

    Point C: the so-called “respectable” media, cultural, academic elites promote two sets of standards of public discourse – one for left-wing subjects and another for right-wing subjects. Basically, it’s open-season on the right because left-wing elites believe that anyone who opposes their well-intended “solutions” to social problems must be selfish, irrational, evil. That’s how even the “mainstream” lightweight media personalities – e.g., Good Morning America – (mostly subconsciously) justify refering to the Tea Party people by a vile perverted label and making veiled jokes about Palin that should never be uttered in mixed company, let alone on national television.

    A thin-skinned fan of Palin is apt to perceive any/every Palin joke as inappropriate, etc.; their thin-skinnedness is a constant – in some cases, when Palin fans (over)react to a Palin joke, the joke might really be inappropriate. 

    Thus we can criticize thin-skinned Palin (or Paul) fans while also questioning whether ostensibly friendly parties like Brian Sack are feeding into points A & B above; in response, the left will automatically play the “thin-skinned” card, but they make a living on bypassing logic. Let’s just not fall into their illogical traps. 

  12. Wilsonia
    September 16th, 2011 @ 1:33 pm

    Dunky? Do any of the people who are pushing this story know what they really saying? The worst, most disgusting thing a woman can do is cross the color line? I guess liberals really do live in 1962 all the time.

  13. ThePaganTemple
    September 16th, 2011 @ 1:54 pm

    Liberals live in 1962? It’s more like they live in 1862 and they’re trying like hell to take it back to the good old days of 1762.

  14. Cheryl Herin
    September 16th, 2011 @ 2:08 pm

    By the way, I asked Brian Sack in a tweet if he had been getting any heat from his joke. His reply: “Nope. Why? Did someone think it was a NYT op-ed?”

  15. Jay
    September 16th, 2011 @ 2:19 pm

    That picture was on the show. RSM didn’t do it.

  16. Joe
    September 16th, 2011 @ 2:39 pm

    Joking about Sarah Palin is fine, but this one was lame given the circumstances.  Of course, no one watches Glenn Beck TV so repeating it gives it more exposure than it ever had before. 

  17. Anonymous
    September 16th, 2011 @ 3:03 pm

    Thank you Stacy for calling Beck and Sack out on this. You are 100% correct. No wonder other respected and ethical professionals have been skeptical of Beck’s ethics all along.

    I would think this (and some of Beck’s previous snipes at Sarah) could make for a rather awkward co-appearance at the “Defending the Republic” event in St. Louis they are scheduled to do Oct.7.

    These kinds of pile-on cheap shots are exactly why upstanding Conservatives are a ‘tough room’.  Referencing your comments: “Trust me, I empathize. It’s a tough room, as they say in stand-up.
    Nevertheless, I worry about the tendency toward a bully-boy mentality that this one joke may suggest: :

  18. Despaxious
    September 16th, 2011 @ 3:05 pm

    I agree with you Stacey. Sack doubled-down on a slimey accusation. He took McGinniss’s slur, added a little extra, and then threw it at Palin not McGinniss. Sack should apply for a job with Letterman.
    Glenn Beck encourages us to restore Honor in our lives. He can start with his own network.

  19. Cheryl Herin
    September 16th, 2011 @ 3:10 pm

    By Oct. 7 that joke will be forgotten, unless certain Palin supporters keep it alive until then. Beck really let Joe McGuiness have it on his radio show yesterday, so I don’t where you get that Beck somehow doesn’t like Palin anymore.

  20. Garym
    September 16th, 2011 @ 3:12 pm

    I think if Sack would have saved this “joke” for a couple of weeks, this would not seem so offensive. The book is still fresh and there are a lot of raw nerves over these lies being told.
    The picture of “Dunky” is funny. Does anyone think “Dunky” is a feference to Eddie Murphy’s character in Shrek, or that he is the “love child” Sarah had with a b-ball player i.e. dunk?

  21. Anonymous
    September 16th, 2011 @ 4:36 pm

    Imitating Jon Stewart’s shtick, badly is not going to put him out of business.
    Beck has slipped a few of his moorings. He was a good source for stories and information that wouldn’t have gotten on TV not even on Fox. One wonders how hard FNC would have hammered on ACORN or Van Jones without Beck’s show taking the lead. Beck’s conclusions often went a bridge too far but his facts were usually well researched. His idea that we needed to come to grips with the unsavory acts of our national past so that we can heal the people with Christmas spirit left me scratching my head. Don’t know how big his audience needs to be for his new project to be viable but counting on Sack wont help, comedians can get away with tasteless but they got to be funny. Some folks on the right thought Beck became somewhat deranged at times when he was on fox. Now he gets to let it all hang out because he gets to set all his boundaries. 

  22. ThePaganTemple
    September 16th, 2011 @ 4:59 pm

    Yeah, I’d say his charge that the EU headquarters was purposely modeled after the Tower of Babel was going several bridges too far.

  23. Dan C
    September 16th, 2011 @ 7:04 pm

    Glenn Beck who lied about Breitbart and is too cowardly to come clean about it. He also says Sarah is a “friend” of his. Sarah even opened her home to a badly burned Vietnam vet and did the guys makeup for him, so Glenn could have him on his show via remote…YET, this is the ass that Glenn hires and apparently is totally fine with treating Sarah like this?

    Glenn has officially joined the ranks of people I no longer respect. 

  24. Anonymous
    September 16th, 2011 @ 8:55 pm

    Stacy, your take on this is correct.  This is an example of what I keep calling “own goals” by the right.

    The left would rather look like total imbeciles (such as Beckel claiming Obama has done more for Israel than any other President), than commit an “own goal.”

    People on the right, especially pundits, seem to relish kicking the ball behind their own keeper.  Some, like Krauthammer, simply cannot stop themselves.

    I suspect it’s largely a ploy to look “independent,” or “relevant.”  Whatever it is, it’s very seldom done with any sense of ability or art, and almost always relies heavily on the marginal propensity to forget that comes with every large audience.

    (The major problem with relying on that factor arises from the drive inherent in most Conservatives to seek the truth. )

  25. Denverwindowwashing
    September 17th, 2011 @ 12:28 am

    Let’s all remember one of Teddy Kennedy’s favorite joke topics:  Mary Jo Kopechne’s death.

    From Hot Air:
    As long as we’re on the subject of humor this morning, what kind of jokes did the late Ted Kennedy like to tell his closest friends?  One of Kennedy’s close friends, former editor of Newsweek and New York Times Magazine Ed Klein, tells the Diane Rehm Show that Chappaquiddick jokes were high up on the list (audio here, at 30:10):

  26. elaine
    September 17th, 2011 @ 12:50 am

    I’ve seen all the previous Sack spots on the new TV show.  (Haven’t watched Friday’s show, yet.)

    Regardless of whether or not I liked the Palin joke, I’ve thought his bits were flat all week.  Apparently, the crowd agreed, given the lack of laughter…

    I hope Beck cans him, or at the very least, gets him some better writers, since Sack and the one he’s working with now aren’t that funny.  There’s a reason Jon Stewart has two dozen writers for his show, Glenn…

  27. Former GB fan
    September 17th, 2011 @ 1:39 pm

    I’m sorry. I’m not a great Sarah Palin fan, but I found the joke WAY beyond the standards I expected from Glenn Beck et al. Genuine humor is based on truth. This was just locker room garbage. I was considering joining up with GBTV. No more.

  28. Anonymous
    September 18th, 2011 @ 6:41 am

    I think it’s bad timing with the Daily Caller vile filth and her supporters, including me are sick of it.  With all the political boobs running around he has to dig Palin? WTF, STOP, she doesn’t deserve it, just like Beck’s wife wouldn’t deserve that crap!  If Beck took the time to “research” Palin he wouldn’t think it was funny either.  I take it they haven’t watched The Undefeated?  They should and wise up, people are sick of it, even if she does have thick skin and she does.  NO ONE HAS BEEN TREATED AS BAD AS THIS WOMAN HAS, enough is enough!