MOUNT VERNON, Wash. - Glenn Beck's visit to his hometown in Washington state this weekend seemed simple enough on the surface, with a ceremonial key to the city awaiting him and the mayor naming the day in the Fox News personality's honor.
But this being Glenn Beck, nothing is that easy.
Groups have demonstrated on the streets and in city council meetings over the conservative commentator's visit. Petitions have been collected calling on the cancellation of the visit. A small business owner put up a sign that says: 'Glenn Beck & Hatred not welcome here.' And the leader of a nearby city has offered the key to his city to Jon Stewart in sort of a mayoral rebuttal.
Welcome home, Glenn.
Mount Vernon Mayor Bud Norris came up with the idea to honor Beck, proclaiming Sept. 26 as 'Glenn Beck Day' as a way to honor his success as a nationally known broadcaster. The event at which Beck is scheduled to speak sold out.
The media circus and the strong public reaction over the event has not fazed Norris, who says people have sent him gifts from across the country to give to Beck.
'I knew him here as a kid,' said Norris, a Republican. 'I was really unaware, really, of what he was doing in the last 25 years or so until I became aware he was on CNN ... I decided to recognize him for his professional achievement, not for his political views.'
Nearly on cue, though, the announcement sparked a wave of opposition, riling up the liberal base in and around Mount Vernon, an agricultural city of 26,000 people 60 miles north of Seattle.
In neighboring Whatcom County, where Beck went to high school, the mayor of Bellingham offered the keys to his city to Stewart, the host of Comedy Central's 'The Daily Show.'
'For me the bottom-line issue is, is somebody adding to the national conversation in a good way, are they adding to civic culture and civic discourse or not? I don't think Glenn Beck does. I think Jon Stewart does,' said Bellingham Mayor Dan Pike.