- Associated Press - Thursday, August 26, 2010

WASHINGTON (AP) — Glenn Beck’s rally on the anniversary and at the site of Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech is drawing criticism, protests and questions about his intentions.

Mr. Beck insists the event Saturday at the Lincoln Memorial is not about politics, even though he and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, a potential 2012 presidential candidate, will attend. But the rally is drawing a strong reaction — and several counterrallies — as the nation looks toward November’s elections.

Mr. Beck, a popular figure among ‘tea party’ activists and a polarizing Fox News Channel personality, has said it is merely a coincidence that the event is taking place on the 47th anniversary of King’s plea for racial equality. Mr. Beck has called President Obama a racist.

The event’s website says the “Restoring Honor” rally is to pay tribute to America’s military personnel and others “who embody our nation’s founding principles of integrity, truth and honor.” It urges citizens to attend and “help us restore the values that founded this great nation.”

“This is going to be an iconic event,” Mr. Beck says. “This is going to be a moment that you’ll never be able to paint people as haters, racists, none of it. This is a moment, quite honestly, that I think we reclaim the civil rights movement. It has been so distorted and so turned upside down. It is an abomination.”

The rally also is to promote the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, which provides scholarships and services to family members of military members.

Mr. Beck’s critics dismissed his claims that the event will not be political.

“When we heard about Glenn Beck, it was puzzling,” the Rev. Al Sharpton said. “Because if you read Dr. King’s speech, it just doesn’t gel with what Mr. Beck or Mrs. Palin are representing.”

Mr. Beck has called Mr. Obama “a guy who has a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture.”

“I’m not saying he doesn’t like white people. I’m saying he has a problem,” Mr. Beck said. “This guy is, I believe, a racist.”

Mrs. Palin has defended radio personality Laura Schlessinger, who announced this month she was ending her “Dr. Laura” program after using a racial epithet repeatedly on the air during a discussion with a caller about racism. Miss Schlessinger later apologized but said her free speech rights were being violated by those urging station affiliates and sponsors to drop her program.

“Dr.Laura:don’t retreat…reload!” Mrs. Palin tweeted. She called Miss Schlessinger “even more powerful & effective w/out the shackles, so watch out Constitutional obstructionists. And b thankful 4 her voice,America!”

“The 8-28 rally is supposedly is about ‘reclaiming the civil rights movement,’ but it is being led by someone whose idea of a racist is the president of the United States,” said Jess Levin, a spokesman for the liberal Media Matters for America, an organization that has targeted Mr. Beck, Fox News Channel and Miss Schlessinger. “This rally is about one thing and one thing only — and that’s promoting Beck’s political agenda.”

Elsewhere in Washington, civil rights activists planned to mark Saturday’s anniversary of the landmark 1963 speech with rallies and demonstrations, some ending on the National Mall. One group planned a four-story sculpture in honor of King near the Washington Monument. Others planned to meet at a Washington school.

Mr. Sharpton’s National Action Network plans a “Reclaim the Dream” rally that will feature Education Secretary Arne Duncan, National Urban League President Marc Morial and Martin Luther King III.

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