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The media watchdog Media Matters for America today released audio of an interview conducted with Byron Williams, the would-be terrorist who last July was arrested after a shootout with cops on his way to San Francisco, where he allegedly planned to kill employees at the offices of the ACLU and the Tides Foundation.
The interview and the accompanying article, by Pacifica Radio producer John Hamilton, illuminates the role Fox News and specifically Fox host Glenn Beck played in turning Williams’ attention toward the groups and convincing him that they were at the center of a vast plot to destroy the country.
“I would have never started watching Fox News if it wasn’t for the fact that Beck was on there,” Williams tells Hamilton. “And it was the things that he did, it was the things he exposed that blew my mind.”
Beck’s influence seems especially salient with regards to Williams’ strange obsession with the Tides Foundation, a low-profile group that dispenses grants to liberal causes. According to Hamilton, Beck had attacked Tides 29 times on his Fox News show in the year-and-a-half leading up to the shooting, often placing it at the center of fantastical diagrams depicting liberal-socialist plots to wreck America.
In the interview from prison, Williams describes Beck as being “like a schoolteacher on TV.” This contradicts statements made by Williams in another interview with the Examiner, in which he claims he already knew everything Beck discussed on his show.
In his conversation with Hamilton, Williams also mentions the influence of David Horowitz, whose Discover The Networks website is the source of much of Beck’s material, and Alex Jones, the Austin-based radio conspiracist whose friend Andrew Napolitano will soon host a daily show on Fox Business.
Beck’s breathless demonization of Tides and other liberal groups has not occurred in a vacuum. The rhetoric that helped inspire Williams to pack his car with guns and ammo and head toward San Francisco finds echo throughout the rightwing media world. Media Matters has a compiled a useful archive of this material here.