Glenn Beck on 'Restoring Honor' Rally, America's future and His Critics

The following is a rush transcript of the August 29, 2010, edition of "Fox News Sunday With Chris Wallace." This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

CHRIS WALLACE, ANCHOR: I'm Chris Wallace, and this is "Fox News Sunday."

On the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, thousands gather for a rally to restore honor to America. Now the man behind the event, Glenn Beck, speaks out on the country's future, his critics and himself in his first and only interview after the rally -- Glenn Beck, only on "Fox News Sunday."

Then, the bad economic news piles up. With the "summer of recovery" losing steam, we'll ask our Sunday group what it means for the November elections.

And our Power Player of the Week, saving lives in and out of the emergency room, all right now on "Fox News Sunday".

And hello again from Fox News in Washington. Well, it was part revival meeting, part patriotic rally. And there may have never been anything quite like it on the National Mall.


WALLACE: They came by the tens of thousands, stretching all the way from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial down past the reflecting pool.  Saturday's event, called "Restoring Honor," was a tribute to our military and a call for Americans to return to core values.

While there was no open politics, former governor Sarah Palin made a veiled reference to a country headed in the wrong direction.


SARAH PALIN: We must not fundamentally transform America as some would want. We must restore America and restore her honor.


WALLACE: But the man everyone came to see was organizer Glenn Beck, who said this nation is at a crossroads.


GLENN BECK: My challenge to you today is to make a choice: Does America go forward and the American experience expands? Or does the experiment fail with us?


WALLACE: When it was over, we sat down with Beck for his first and only interview after the rally.



WALLACE: Glenn, welcome to "Fox News Sunday."

BECK: Thank you.

WALLACE: What does this day mean, the tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of people who attended? What's the message of the day?

BECK: Well, if it's just a message for the day, it's pretty meaningless. But if it is the -- the line I actually cut from the speech was the last line, that we're 40 days and 40 nights away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America.

If people awaken and turn around and see that we have lost our way, and they do something about it in their own lives, not through politics but in their own lives, then it's a -- it's an important day. Otherwise, it was just a nice day out in the sunshine.

WALLACE: I want to talk about this exact point that you're just mentioning. You talk about miracles. You talk about an end to spiritual darkness. You talk about America turning back to God.

Do you feel that you have a role -- and I mean this seriously. Do you feel that you have a role in trying to save this country?

BECK: You don't?

WALLACE: No, I just ask questions for a living.

BECK: Oh, I forgot I was with an actual journalist. The -- I think, Chris, that every American should feel that way. Whether you -- because you're a journalist, you shouldn't become an advocate. I'm not a journalist.

I think every American has a role in saving this country. Whether you're Democrat, Republican, independent, it doesn't matter. We all know the country's in trouble. We may disagree on how to solve it, but we all know the country's in trouble.

And I've come to the -- to the -- to the place where I believe that there's no way to solve these problems, these issues -- there's nothing that we can do that will solve the problems that we have and keep the peace, unless we solve it through God, unless we solve it in being our highest self. And that's a pretty tall order.

WALLACE: You say and you emphasized that there would be no politics in this rally, and there really wasn't. But the fact is -- and I say this as somebody who's been in Washington for 30 years; that may be a plus or a minus -- that when you have a crowd as big as you had today, that makes a political statement.

In the context of the November elections that are coming up, what do you think the challenge is to our political parties? What was the message that those tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, of people who came to watch you -- what were they trying to tell our leaders?

BECK: I don't know what they were trying to tell the leaders. I know what -- the message that I think -- to get -- I mean, look. We'll have aerial photography here shortly on the numbers, but I can tell you that it was in the hundreds of thousands. I've heard -- let's be -- let's be on the low end, 300,000, and it may be as high as 650,000. But there were hundreds of thousands.

You don't get that many people to come to Washington and stand there and have that kind of a moment, without signs, without any political messages, for no reason. You don't do it because they're happy about things. That's what the politicians -- the first message that they should get. People aren't really happy with things. A good number of people are not happy with the direction we're going.

The second message they should get -- politicians -- is where are you headed, where are you taking -- we want the truth. Americans just want the truth. And that's why I said in this speech demand the truth from yourself first before you demand it from someone else.

You've got to demand the truth from yourself. And that's what I challenged that group to do. What message they were trying to send, you'd have to ask them. The message I was trying to send was be your highest self and stand in the -- in the burning bush. Stand in the fire, because that's the only thing that's going to save us.

WALLACE: One of the big controversies about this event was the date, the 47th anniversary of Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech. You say it was a coincidence, but you also say it was divine providence because you wanted to reclaim the civil rights movement. Reclaim from whom?  Reclaim from what?

BECK: How about who is reclaiming? People of faith, reclaiming from politics. I read headline after headline after headline this week that -- the damage that I have done to racial politics. My gosh, who thinks racial politics? Who's typing that out and saying, "Yes, the damage that has been to racial politics," and thinks that's a good thing?

Race should not be in politics. Race is a -- is a negative that is a heart condition, quite honestly. And the people that -- and I don't -- I got a lot of heat this week from people saying, "Oh, you're saying that you were part of the civil" -- I wasn't even born. I wasn't even born.

I -- you know, I lived in the Pacific Northwest. I can't even begin to relate. But I can understand it intellectually. And I can also begin to understand it in the heart when you see justice not done. We're seeing justice perverted on both sides for a very long time.

Reclaim the civil rights, meaning people of faith that look at equal justice and look at every man the same. That's who needs to reclaim it, not the politicians, not the parties, not white people or black people.

WALLACE: But, Glenn...

BECK: People of faith.

WALLACE: But, Glenn, the civil rights movement always had an agenda beyond just equality, beyond just, quote, "justice." The full name of the march 47 years ago was the "March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom." One of the...

BECK: Right.

WALLACE: ... speakers at the event was a labor leader, A. Philip Randolph, who talked about the injustice of people who live in poverty.

John Lewis, then a student, now a congressman, said this at the event, "We need a bill that will ensure the equality of a maid who earns $5 a week in the home of family whose total income is $100,000 a year."

The civil rights movement was always about an economic agenda.

BECK: Well, you know what, Chris? I think that is part of it, but that's a part of it that I don't agree with. I think the bigger part, the thing that we fail to recognize, is that is the racial politics.

The real agenda should be equal justice, an equal shot. The dream was judge a man by the content of his character, not the color of his skin.  That's something that everybody can take part in. And I don't know if we've actually done that.

We're certainly not doing that now with the Justice Department. When you look at somebody in the Black Panthers and they are standing at the doorway, African Americans who experience that themselves should be equally outraged.

And when you see that happening in a community and somebody is intimidating black voters, you should be equally outraged. Those are the main principles. Now, how we...

WALLACE: Wait, wait, wait, wait. Wait, wait, wait.

BECK: ... govern, that's...

WALLACE: Wait. Wait, let me -- let me ask you about that, though, because Martin Luther King was assassinated when he was leading the poor people's campaign. He advocated what he called an economic bill of rights, guaranteeing everyone a job.

I mean, you may say well, that's not your civil rights movement, but it was Martin Luther King's.

BECK: Well, I -- I'm not Martin Luther King. Martin Luther King would have to stand for Martin Luther King. Let his words stand where they are.

What I'm talking about is -- and look, Chris, I didn't intentionally put it on 8-28. The message is about God and faith. The message that I gave on the -- on the steps today was that you need to stand for those things that are right and empower the individual. Believe in the power of one person. Don't believe that you can't do it.

Everybody wants -- everybody wants a shot. That we can all agree on.  Beyond that, it becomes politics. I'm not talking politics.

WALLACE: This is, I guess, as good a time as any to go back to what you said about President Obama last year, which in the coverage of this has been played over and over...

BECK: Endlessly.

WALLACE: ... again. Let's watch it and I'll talk to you after we hear it:


BECK: This president, I think, has exposed himself as a guy over and over and over again who has a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture. I don't know what it is. This guy is, I believe, a racist.


WALLACE: Question: After that, do you have any credibility talking about reclaiming the civil rights movement?

BECK: OK. Let me go over this again on the reclaiming the civil rights movement. People of faith that believe that you have an equal right to justice -- that is the essence. And if it's not the essence, then we've been sold a pack of lies.

The essence is everyone deserves a shot -- the content of character, not the color of skin. Now, when -- I've addressed this comment a million times. And in fact, I think I amended it this week that what I didn't understand at the time was the influences on President Obama and, you know, the white culture.

Look -- read his own books. He writes about the white culture and how he struggled with it, et cetera, et cetera. But I didn't understand, really, his theology. He's -- his viewpoints come from liberation theology. That's what I think in -- at the gut level I was sensing. And I miscast it as racism. And really, what it is is liberation theology.

WALLACE: Do you -- I know you've said it, but I mean, do you -- and in this context, in this forum, do you regret having called him a racist and saying...

BECK: Of course.

WALLACE: ... he had a deep-seated hatred for white people?

BECK: Of course I do. I don't -- I don't want to retract the -- I want to amend that I think it is much more of a theological question, that he is a guy who understands the world through liberation theology, which is oppressor and victim.

Racist was -- first of all, it shouldn't have been said. It was poorly said. It was -- I have a big fat mouth sometimes and I say things, and that's just not the way people should behave. And it was not accurate.  It is liberation theology that...

WALLACE: Let -- let me ask...

BECK: ... has shaped his world view.

WALLACE: Let me -- let me ask you directly about that, because, you know, the central message -- I'm telling you what the central message of your event was, but the central message was that we need to return to God, we need to get straight with God individually, and that's going to help us as a nation.

You said recently that the reason that a growing number of Americans don't think President Obama is a Christian is because they don't recognize the faith that he's practicing. And in fact, you even called it a perversion of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

And I -- you know I respect you, and I say this affectionately, but who made you the God squad?

BECK: Oh, nobody made me the God squad. The pope even said -- this is Pope Benedict -- that it is demonic, not divine, when theology crosses into the line of doing that which only the divine can do. He was speaking specifically about liberation theology.

If you want to -- you want to ask anybody in the Catholic Church, they witnessed it. It's Marxism disguised as religion. And it happened in South America. And the Catholic Church has a very long history with it.  They understand it, unlike most religions.

And I'm not judging him for that. I'd love to have an open conversation about collective salvation. Chris, you know, I don't know -- I don't know what you know or what you believe, but most Christians, when you say, "I'm a Christian" -- and look, I'm a Mormon, and most Christians don't recognize me as a Christian, so who am I to say? I'm not judging.

I'm saying most Christians would look at collective salvation, which is my salvation -- my redemption is incumbent on what the collective does, so I can't be saved unless the collective is saved. Well, that is a direct opposite of what the gospel talks about.

Jesus came for personal salvation. It's like people say, you know, you just accept Jesus and you're saved. That's not what my church teaches.  You are, but then you also -- you got to get in there and plug. You got to change your heart as well. OK. That's what I happen to believe.

What does the president believe? Four different speeches since he's been president, he has told -- and mainly students -- that your salvation is directly tied to the collective salvation. That -- that's not something that most Christians recognize.

I don't -- I'm not demonizing it. I disagree with it. The pope has said -- I mean, he's actually demonized it. People aren't recognizing his version of Christianity, just like -- and 48 percent of the African American community doesn't recognize it either, by the way. They didn't recognize it with Jeremiah Wright. They don't recognize it now.

WALLACE: Let's talk, in the time that we have left, about -- I don't know if it's one of your favorite subjects or not -- Glenn Beck, because I'm trying to figure you out. In the...


WALLACE: In the 40 years that I've been in this business, I've never -- I have to say I've never seen anyone quite like you. You're not a news man. You're not a preacher. You're not a politician. You -- your radio show bills itself as the fusion of entertainment and enlightenment. What are you?

BECK: I'm a dad. I'm a concerned citizen. I'm a guy who, Chris, you would not have wanted -- you would have talked to, you know, 15 years ago one of the most ignorant men on the planet.

I'm a guy who took one class, because it's all I could afford, when I was 30 in college. I made a lot of mistakes in life, bottomed out, figured out that I didn't -- I didn't know my butt from my elbow, and decided to learn.

And I read everything I could. I read people who disagree with each other. I try to find the truth. And only because I bottomed out and realized I didn't believe in anything, really -- I believed in stuff because other people told me.

I want to figure out what the real truth is, and inconsistencies bother me. And now I find myself in a situation -- started with 9/11 and has just gotten stronger and stronger, and very strong during the Bush administration.

Most media doesn't like to point out -- and in fact, they never do -- that I was a -- I was somebody who in the last three years of George W. Bush was telling people, "Run! Run for your lives!" And all I'm looking for is the truth.

And I feel that each of us -- back to your first question, each of us have the responsibility as American citizens to stand guard. If I'm wrong, I'm going to be the first to celebrate. I mean, everybody always talks about how much money I'm -- you know, "Oh, do you know how much money he's making off stuff?"

Are you kidding me? Have you listened to my show? I don't believe -- I believe it's going to be pretty worthless at some point. I mean, I don't know what the currency's going to be, gold or acorns, but I don't think it's going to be the U.S. dollar.

WALLACE: Jon Stewart has been going after you a lot recently, and I want -- let's watch him doing Glenn Beck. Here it is.

BECK: Yeah.


JON STEWART: And as I look around at all the truly random things that I scribbled...


STEWART: ... I'm sorry, I promised myself that I would cry.



WALLACE: What do you think of that?

BECK: I think he's funny. I think -- quite honestly, I think he should write me a check. There is -- I don't think there's anybody on radio or television that makes more jokes about themselves than me.

I've tried to get Frank Caliendo, who does a great me -- I mean really, really well. I've tried to get him on the show to do the chalkboard and mock me himself. Look, there's a lot of stuff to make fun of.

WALLACE: Well, let me ask you about one of those things. What's with all the crying?

BECK: Did you notice that I didn't during the speech? Did you notice that?

WALLACE: There were a couple of times when you were getting -- you were getting close.

BECK: OK, but -- for me, OK, yes. I was getting verklempt, but I didn't cry. Do you know how hard I worked on that?

Look, I'm a -- I'm -- I was a hard living, hard drinking guy, and I don't know what happened, but when I stopped drinking and I turned my life around and I began to care about stuff, I got all mushy inside.

Believe me, Chris, there is nothing -- nothing -- that drives me more -- drives me crazy more than crying all the time. My wife -- I was writing the speech, and I'm laying down on the floor, and I'm writing the speech, and my wife comes down and she lays down next to me. And I just looked at her and I started to cry, and she -- I mean, she doesn't -- most times she doesn't -- she doesn't even say anything.

She's like, "You want some orange juice?" And I said -- she said, "What's wrong?" And I said, "No, no, no, it's what's right. It's what's right." And I don't know what happened to me, but I'm a mushy guy. I cry at commercials.

WALLACE: Let me ask you about a couple of final things. You announced last month that you have a serious and rare eye disease called macular dystrophy and that you could go blind in the next year. How are you doing?

BECK: I'm doing fine. I came to a great place with that, to where I'm beginning to really come to a really great place -- and if it's not true, shh, just don't anybody tell me -- that I'm not noticing -- I'm not taking things as bad when it comes to experiences in life. They just are. And it's what you make of them.

I felt bad for myself, sort of felt sorry for myself, for about three days, because I really like to read and I wouldn't be able to read, and so I felt sorry for myself on that. And then I just got to a place where I'm, like, "You know what? If that's happening, that's because I'm missing something. I'm not seeing something because I have eyes. So what's the next chapter? What is it that's going to happen?"

With that being said, this particular disease -- I love this diagnosis. The doctor said, "Well, you have macular dystrophy and you could -- you could be blind in the next year, or you could die at a very old age and it could all stop here and it would be fine."

I said, "Well, so in other words, I could be blind or I could not be blind." I think my mother told me that when I ran with a stick. I mean, I think everybody knows, you could put an eye out. I got that.

WALLACE: All right. Finally, you...

BECK: Yeah.

WALLACE: ... hold a rally on the National Mall and hundreds of thousands of people come. After that, are a TV show and a radio show going to be enough for you?

BECK: Why? Do you have some other idea?

WALLACE: Well, I got to tell you, the blog traffic right now is a Beck-Palin national ticket in 2012.

BECK: Not a chance. I don't know what Sarah is doing. I hope to be on vacation. I have no desire to be president of the United States. Zero desire. I don't think that I would be electable.

And there are far too many people that are far smarter than me to be president. I'd like to find one with some honor and integrity. I haven't seen them yet, but they'll show up.

WALLACE: But when you've got hundreds of thousands of people showing up to see you, Glenn, that's something. I mean, that's -- that's worth something, and I don't mean personally to you, but that's people putting their trust in you.

BECK: Well, but I mean, if that's the case, then we should either elect Billy Graham or Paul McCartney. I mean, you know...

WALLACE: Well, you don't sing as well as one of them.

BECK: I know. I know. I -- you know, that's not how we should be looking for our president on whether or no not -- that's politics again -- you know, can they get elected? How many people are they -- you know, yada, yada.

We should be looking for people with the right ideas. My feeling right now is the country is in trouble. And I don't see a political solution, because I think we're too divided. I think we're -- I think both parties have sold their souls.

And you know, our founders, if you read their speeches and their -- you read their documents and their letters to each other, when they founded our country, they all said it would happen if the people turned from God.

So let's take them as people who knew what they were talking about.  What do you say we give the whole "let's turn back to God" thing a try and see what happens?

WALLACE: Glenn, we want to thank you so much for talking with us at the end of a very long day. Thank you, sir.

BECK: Thank you, Chris.