BECK EXPLAINS THREE-FIFTHS CLAUSE AS ONLY HE CAN…. On his radio show today, Glenn Beck fielded a call from a listener who questioned Beck on the framers of the constitution. As the caller put it, “[M]ost of those guys were slave owners, the Constitution that they wrote up, they didn’t even recognize my people as even human.”

Beck belittled the caller a bit, encouraged him to read a history textbook that “wasn’t written by progressives,” and insisted that the three-fifths clause was motivated by abolitionist attitudes.

“The reason why they wanted [the three-fifths clause] is because of the balance of power,” Beck said. “The South could control the numbers in Congress. Their representation would go through the roof…. That’s why, in the Constitution, African Americans were deemed three-fifths people, because the Founders wanted to end slavery and they knew if the South could count slaves as full individuals you would never get the control to be able to abolish it.”

I don’t know if I’ve ever heard a major media figure offer a defense of the three-fifths clause, which would seem to put Glenn Beck in a league of his own. Of course, I suppose we already knew that.

Alex Seitz-Wald takes all of this apart quite nicely.

This is another example of Beck distorting history to fit his contemporary agenda. Beck paints a picture of infallible Founders fighting evil Southerners who want to keep their slaves. The problem with this is, of course, is that many of the Founders were from the South and about half of the Constitution’s framers — including George Washington and Thomas Jefferson — owned slaves.

Beck also distorts the motives of the Founders to whitewash their actions by suggesting that Northerners allowed the three-fifths rule purely as an eventual means to ending slavery. But his theory doesn’t explain why the Constitution prohibited outlawing the Atlantic slave trade for twenty years after ratification nor why it included a clause requiring runaway slaves be returned to their owners.

What’s more, let’s also not forget that this isn’t the first time Beck has drawn incomprehensible conclusions about 18th century slave policies in the United States.

That Beck manages to keep his sponsors is quite an accomplishment.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.