By HADAS GOLD, POLITICO
Last summer conservative radio and TV host Glenn Beck described congressional efforts for immigration reform as a “way the president will have amnesty for illegals” in order to fast-track “permanent progressivism.”
Last fall, he used the government shutdown to joke about declaring the border with Mexico a national park so that the government could properly guard it.
This time last year, his fellow conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt didn’t want any mulling over of immigration reform without an “actual, honest to God, 14-foot high, double-layered, access road, border fence” that stretched for 1,000 miles.
This summer, the radio waves sound different.
Beck and Hewitt are taking a softer tone on the issue — showing a more compassionate side for the 50,000 child migrants, whose presence and detention at the border have reignited the national debate on immigration.
Beck and Hewitt built their die-hard followings with conservative red-meat discussions, and while neither host has changed his stance on immigration policy — Beck said he is still against amnesty and Hewitt is still a big proponent of the fence — their new tone is a reminder of the unusual and complicated crisis at the border.
In an op-ed for POLITICO Magazine on Thursday, Hewitt argued that now isn’t the time to discuss the border fence he has long advocated.
On his Tuesday evening broadcast on his cable channel TheBlaze, Beck directly addressed the parents of child immigrants, tears in his eyes as a scrolling marquee translated his monologue into Spanish, begging them to keep their children at home for their own safety.
“Please would you consider doing the hard thing as well would you resist the temptation to flee or break up your family, please don’t hand your child off to a smuggler in the middle of the night,” Beck said. “I can’t sleep at night thinking about your son or daughter and so I and about 150 volunteers and multiple semi-trucks are going down to our border and we will see your child … and we will care for them.”
Hewitt and Beck seem to be alone among their conservative radio peers. While the duo pushed to humanize child migrants, their colleagues are focused on border security and deportation. Sean Hannity toured the border with Texas Gov. Rick Perry, machine guns in tow. Rush Limbaugh said authorities are trying to keep the issues at the border a secret and blasted liberals and Hollywood for not raising money for the children the same way they might for suffering children in Africa.
“So these kids, they’re arriving and they’re being dispersed el quicko, folks, they’re not hanging around,” Limbaugh said on his radio show last week.
Radio host and Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham wrote an 11-point plan last week on fixing the immigration crisis with the No. 1 item being deportations — an idea Fox News host Bill O’Reilly said could “doom” the Republican Party.