Today Show Previews Glenn Beck Rally: Watch Out For Signs With 'Racist Overtones'

NBC's Tom Costello, on Friday's Today show, in previewing Glenn Beck's rally at the Lincoln Memorial this weekend, focused on the racial insensitivity of the Tea Partiers as he reminded NBC's viewers that at last year's rally in Washington "there were a lot of signs that had rather racist overtones. The concern is that might be repeated this time. By the way, many Beck followers, who are coming, are being urged to avoid African-American areas and avoid conflict."

Costello began his story noting that while "Glenn Beck says that Dr. King is a hero of his" he is still "defiant in his right to be here" and then went on to cite political analyst Stu Rothenberg in insisting "this weekend's event could carry risk for Republicans."

The following is the full Costello story as it was aired on the August 27 Today show:

ANN CURRY: Radio and Fox News host Glenn Beck is promising a massive rally in Washington this weekend to, quote, "Restore honor in America." He plans to do it at the same spot and on the anniversary of Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech and that is stirring some controversy. NBC's Tom Costello is at the Lincoln Memorial this morning with more on this. Tom, good morning.

[On screen headline: "'Restoring Honor' Glenn Beck's Rally On MLK Anniversary"]

TOM COSTELLO: Ann, good morning to you. And Glenn Beck says that Dr. King is a hero of his, and for that reason he will not stand on the same step that Dr. King stood on in 1963. He plans to stand a few steps below that. That said, he is defiant in his right to be here. What happened on this very spot 47 years ago tomorrow was among the most pivotal moments in American history.

DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.: I have a dream today.

COSTELLO: But conservative host Glenn Beck also has a dream.

GLENN BECK: We will mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.

COSTELLO: Beck is hoping his rally this weekend will rival last year's anti-tax rally that attracted tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of people, many of them tea party activists. Increasingly Beck has been evoking the civil rights movement and says this weekend is about restoring honor in America. He also insists he did not realize it was the anniversary of the March on Washington but, he says, that shouldn't matter.

BECK: I'm sorry. African-Americans don't own Martin Luther King. It's a human idea just like white people don't own George Washington or Abraham Lincoln.

COSTELLO: But Beck's comments about race have sometimes been inflammatory.

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.

SARAH PALIN: Do you love your freedom?

COSTELLO: And joining Beck this weekend will be former Governor Sarah Palin, who last week defended talk show host Laura Schlessinger's repeated use of the "n" word, as freedom of speech, saying it wasn't being used in a racist manner.

DR. LAURA SCHLESSINGER: And I'll say it again *bleep* *bleep* *bleep*

COSTELLO: While Beck insists this is a nonpolitical gathering, analyst Stu Rothenberg says this weekend's event could carry risk for Republicans.

STU ROTHENBERG: The Republican Party needs conservatives, needs the Tea Party activists but the Republican Party does not want to be defined by Tea Partiers or Glenn Beck.

COSTELLO: Activist Reverend Al Sharpton, will also be in D.C., Saturday leading a march to mark the MLK anniversary but promises to avoid confrontation.

AL SHARPTON: To go and confront him is to make it about him. That would, in my opinion and the opinion of many that are participating with us that day, would mock the memory of Dr. King.

COSTELLO: So why this weekend? Beck says maybe it was meant to be.

BECK: I believe in divine providence. It was not my intention it to select 8/28 because of the Martin Luther King tie.

COSTELLO: Also, Beck says that he believes this is about reclaiming civil rights. Importantly, he says, they will not allow any campaign signs here at all. That may be rather tough to enforce given the scope and the size of this place. The trouble is, of course, last year there were a lot of signs that had rather racist overtones. The concern is that might be repeated this time. By the way, many Beck followers, who are coming, are being urged to avoid African-American areas and avoid conflict. Ann, back to you.

CURRY: Okay. We'll see what happens. Tom Costello, thanks a lot.

-Geoffrey Dickens is the Senior News Analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here