It wasn’t the start of a beautiful friendship

IT WASN’T THE START OF A BEAUTIFUL FRIENDSHIP…. By all appearances, conservatives’ burgeoning love affair with Eric Massa ended abruptly yesterday, a few minutes after 5 p.m. (ET).

On Monday, Glenn Beck told his radio audience of the New York congressman, “This guy is the guy we’ve been looking for!” I don’t imagine he feels the same way now.

Beck had Massa on as a special, hour-long featured guest on his Fox News program yesterday. The host and his supporters had heard Massa spinning wild conspiracy theories involving Democratic leaders on the Hill and White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, and hoped desperately that his tales would prove humiliating to Dems.

By the time the interview was over, there was plenty of humiliation, but not among Democrats.

Marc Ambinder’s description of the Beck-Massa discussion summarized things nicely.

So everyone thought that Eric Massa would go on Glenn Beck’s show and trash the White House and fuel conspiracy theories about Chicago-like intimidating tactics used to threaten lawmakers into voting for the health care bill.

But the first thing that Massa said was that he wasn’t forced out, “I forced myself out.”

Beck’s night ended there. His lip curled up.

Then Massa used the platform to (a) look a little crazy (b) defuse a conspiracy theory that he helped to create and (c) lambast Beck a bit for his own overstatements.

Complicating matters, Massa conceded that he “groped a male staffer” last year, though he said it wasn’t sexual.

Conservatives waiting with bated breath for the former Democratic congressman to dish the dirt had to have felt dejected. Did party leaders really force him to resign as part of a heavy-handed display of power? Well, actually no. Does Massa have any evidence to bolster his conspiracy theories or specific instances of corruption? Nope. Did Massa have anything new or damaging to say about Democratic leaders? Not really, no.

Was there any real point to this bizarre political theater? Not so much.

As the show was wrapping up, Beck seemed to realize he’d made a terrible mistake: “America, I’ve got to shoot straight with you. I think I’ve wasted your time. I think this is the first time I have wasted an hour of your time, and I apologize for that.”

Sam Stein, who posted the video of the hour-long chat, described the interview as “train wreck television.”

How could Beck allow this to happen? Alex Koppelman highlighted the underlying lesson from yesterday: “Beck had very little idea who Massa was or what he wanted to talk about. He simply wasn’t prepared for the interview — he just knew that the former congressman had said some things that tended to support his worldview. This is where we really see the limits of an approach like Beck’s. His schtick — former wacky morning DJ turns guy who’s singlehandedly saving America by exposing what they don’t want you to know — works fine when it doesn’t involve actual knowledge or reporting. Once he needs that, though, things can fall apart very quickly.”

As for Massa, it didn’t seem possible for his reputation to deteriorate further. And yet somehow, he managed to find a way.