Former Fox News personality Glenn Beck’s eyes were apparently bigger than his scoop in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon attack, and—according to a report in the Washington Post—he’s not exactly sorry about his shoddy reporting.
First, some background: The controversial pundit’s conspiracy theory about the bombings, briefly detailed in the video below, focused on a 20-year-old Saudi national from Revere who received a full scholarship to study at the New England School of English.
Without any public confirmation from authorities, Beck called Abdulrahman Alharbi a “bad, bad, bad man,” at one point going as far as referring to him as “the Saudi national that was...involved in blowing the legs off of American citizens.”
He said in other statements that the 20-year-old English student was a “control agent” and a “proven terrorist” whose “mission was to recruit fighters” for Al-Qaeda, adding Alharbi was the “money man” who provided financing for the bombing. The talk show host said Alharbi was being deported from the country because of his terrorist connections, and that the case was being covered up by government officials for political reasons.
Of course, Alharbi was never officially considered a suspect and was, in fact, hospitalized as a victim of the Marathon bombing. He was never deported, and the Department of Homeland Security later called reports calling Alharbi a terrorist “100 percent false.”
Police eventually cleared him of any connection to the attacks after hospital interviews and a highly publicized search of his apartment—weeks before Beck made a number of his allegedly defamatory statements.
“[Alharbi] has been checked out,” a law enforcement official briefed on the investigation told the Boston Globe. “He is not involved. He is just a victim.’’
Alharbi went public a month later in an interview with The Islamic Monthly, in which he said he had been “double-injured” by the media coverage:
I saw the media because I had a T.V. in my [hospital] room. I saw that they wrote that: “21 [-year-old] Saudi national questioned.” I was asking myself and looking to the FBI and looking to the nurses. “Look! Why? Ok, I don’t blame you, about your questions, I don’t blame you. You are protecting your country but why did you show to the media that I am a suspect?” They [the media] said, Saudi man, suspect. Why? Did I do anything wrong? Do you have any evidence? Because as I heard from the media, that I was trying to escape. I wasn’t. And they said that the police officer arrested me because I was behaving suspiciously. No. All these lies. I don’t know from where did they get all these lies. But, I was really shocked.
Not surprisingly, Alharbi sued Beck for defamation, alleging “Beck repeatedly and falsely identified Mr. Alharbi as an active participant, repeatedly questioned the motives of federal officials in failing to pursue or detain Alharbi and repeatedly and falsely accused Mr. Alharbi of being a criminal who had funded the attacks.”
A sad story that should instill the highest sense of embarrassment in any journalist’s—so to speak—heart, right?
Nah. Instead, Beck’s lawyers now audaciously argue that the Alharbi is impinging on his rights by filing the lawsuit.
From the Post’s report:
“Beck argues the bombings made Alharbi a “limited purpose” and “involuntary” public figure who must prove not just that Beck made false accusations, but that Beck did it with “actual malice.”
What makes Alharbi a public figure, according to Beck? “By behaving suspiciously at the Marathon finishing line when the bombs detonated, thereby causing his detention and a background check by law enforcement,” states Beck’s motion to dismiss, Alharbi “embarked on a course of conduct that was reasonably likely to result in public attention and comment on his background, activities, and immigration status.” Plus, he gave interviews defending himself, said Beck’s legal team, led by Michael J. Grygiel.
Beck’s lawyers declined to comment on the Post’s story—echoing the pundit’s own consistent silence on the suit—so we’ll just have to wait until the arguments are heard in court over the next few weeks.