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Glenn Beck regrets “freaking out about Barack Obama”

Libby Nelson is Vox's policy editor, leading coverage of how government action and inaction shape American life. Libby has more than a decade of policy journalism experience, including at Inside Higher Ed and Politico. She joined Vox in 2014.

If you needed a pre-Election Day sign that the apocalypse may be upon us, here’s one: Glenn Beck, once an inspirational figure for the Tea Party movement, is now saying nice things about President Obama.

Beck gave a brief interview to the New Yorker where he praised Michelle Obama’s speech about Donald Trump’s treatment of women, called Trump “dangerously unhinged,” and says he is sympathetic to Black Lives Matter (the New Yorker says he supports the movement, but apparently Beck won’t actually go that far):

“I did a lot of freaking out about Barack Obama.” But, he said, “Obama made me a better man.” He regrets calling the President a racist and counts himself a Black Lives Matter supporter. “There are things unique to the African-American experience that I cannot relate to,” he said. “I had to listen to them.”

If the last time you thought about Glenn Beck was when he was drawing conspiracy theories on a chalkboard at Fox News, accusing Obama of hating white people and progressives of imitating Nazis, this might come as quite a surprise.

When Obama took office, Beck promoted ad nauseum the idea that his administration was an unprecedented threat to America. He claimed Americorps would become Obama’s version of Hitler’s SS. He said Obama was not a Muslim, then insinuated that maybe he was: “Are they sending messages?” He joked about poisoning Nancy Pelosi and, earlier in his career, about choking Michael Moore to death. He led his audiences to believe that a total collapse of the US was likely and they should buy gold.

But ever since Beck struck out to build a media empire centered around his website and TV content, The Blaze, he’s been moderating his tone and claiming to regret his past excesses. In 2014, Beck told Megyn Kelly, “I wish I could go back and be more uniting in my language. Because I think I played a role unfortunately in helping tear the country apart. And it’s not who we are. I didn’t realize how really fragile the people were. I thought we were kind of a little more in it together.”

Beck’s attempt to build his own media empire, and his declaration in 2015 that he’d left the Republican Party, means he was far less influential by the time Trump rose to power. But many of the ideas Trump’s fans hold dear, including that the election is the “last chance” to save America, echo Beck’s apocalyptic language. Beck says he’s horrified by Trump. If so, he’s appalled at something he helped create.