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Glenn Beck and Rep. Anthony Weiner: A Fight for the Gold

5 years ago
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The end is near, buy gold.

That's been right-wing talker Glenn Beck's advice to those who listen to his syndicated radio show and watch his Fox News show. You need to "think like a German Jew in 1934, maybe 1931," he has said -- and that means loading up on the yellow, shiny stuff, so that when economies and currencies collapse, you'll be able to buy food (or letters of transit).

Beck is free to give whatever economic advice to his fans, but he has blended his analysis with self-serving commerce, promoting a particular gold coin retailer called Goldline, which has too often ripped off customers by peddling coins at much higher prices than their true value and selling them as solid financial investments. Not coincidentally, Goldline is a major sponsor of Beck's radio and TV shows. My Mother Jones colleague Stephanie Mencimer has written a thorough exposé of Goldline and the Beck connection, and the story has hit at a propitious moment: just as Beck has attacked a Democratic congressman who has investigated Beck and Goldline.

On Tuesday, Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) released a report noting that Beck and Goldline have together used fear tactics to bilk investors. As Mencimer puts it, Beck has been "recommending a company that promotes financial security but operates in a largely unregulated no-man's land, generating a pile of consumer complaints about misleading advertising, aggressive telemarketing, and overpriced products." Her article details instances when Goldline reps swindled folks into buying gold coins as an investment -- when there was no way such a purchase could be considered a reasonable financial move. One fellow looking to buy gold bullion from Goldline was sold $10,000 worth of 20-franc Swiss gold coins at a price of almost double what was then the current rate for gold -- meaning he was deep in the hole at the get-go.

Goldline, Weiner said, "rips off consumers, uses misleading and possibly illegal sales tactics, and deliberately manipulates public fears of an impending government takeover -- this is a trifecta of terrible business practices." He declared that Beck "should be ashamed of himself" for aiding and abetting the company. Weiner noted he would introduce legislation forcing Goldline and other precious metal dealers to disclose all relevant information to its customers -- such as the melt value of the coins being sold and how much the price of gold would have to increase to produce a profit for the buyer. Weiner blasted other conservative talkers -- including Fred Thompson, Dennis Miller, Laura Ingraham, Monica Crowley, and Mike Huckabee -- for also advocating the buying of gold on programs supported by Goldline ads. Weiner has called for the Federal Trade Commission and the Securities Exchange Commission to investigate.

Beck, naturally, didn't take kindly to all this. He accused Weiner of being a modern-day Joe McCarthy, and he claimed that Weiner's investigation was part of an anti-Beck conspiracy mounted by the Obama White House. "This is again another arm of this administration coming out to try to shut me down," he railed on his radio show. On Fox News, he briefly noted that a congressman had launched "an attack" on him. He added, "They're attacking every which they can. It is important that you watch these shows, that you take notes." Beck didn't name the congressman, didn't explain the attack. He didn't mention Goldline.

Weiner has the goods on Beck and Goldline. Mencimer does, too. This is a sleazy business. Beck and Fox rake in the bucks, and viewers who take Beck seriously have been rooked by Goldline. Their motto could be: We exhort, you get taken for a ride.

Weiner is not going to let go of this. On Tuesday night, "Countdown" host Keith Olbermann asked him if he's prepared for a battle of wits with Beck. "He comes only half-prepared to that battle," Weiner quipped. And no doubt, Beck will squeeze what he can out of this fight (or crusade of persecution). After all, he's all about turning bad news into gold.

You can follow David Corn's posts and media appearances via Twitter.
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