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Glenn Beck low key about impending end of Fox show

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The usually louder-than-life Glenn Beck was mostly mum Thursday about the impending end of his Fox News Channel program, offering no direct comment on the surprising news that was unveiled rather cryptically on Wednesday.

However, during his 5 p.m. ET show, Beck did take umbrage with ABC’s “Good Morning America,” which did a piece on Beck’s departure Thursday morning in which he was described as a purveyor of doom-and-gloom conspiracy theories.

“’Good Morning America’ should stop investigating me and start investigating what’s going on in our world,” Beck said.

“I started doing this show for a reason – to try to stop the cascading (of events),” he told his viewers. “All I’m trying to do is to prepare you so you can be a shelter for others, so you can help.”

Beck also joked that his departure would be a blow to Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart, who frequently made fun of Beck and the decidedly low-tech chalkboards he used on the air.

“You’re going to miss me, Jon,” he said.

Beck and Fox released a joint statement Wednesday saying his daily show -- which took the cable news business by storm when it debuted in January 2009 -- would end sometime this year, although Beck would retain a role with the network doing special projects. (CNN used virtually the same language when Larry King was eased out the door late last year.)

Beck – part revival preacher, part apocalyptic prophet and part schoolmarm provocateur – led the charge against President Obama, helping to create the wave of public anger that fueled the Tea Party movement and Republican gains in the 2010 elections. But as that anger cooled, so did his ratings.

Beck’s audience dropped from 2.8 million viewers in the first quarter of 2010 to 1.9 million in the first three months of this year, according to Nielsen figures. However, despite the decline, he still drew more than twice as many viewers in the 5 p.m. ET hour as CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, his nearest competitor, and his show was still in fourth place among all cable news shows in February, drawing higher ratings than Fox’s Greta Van Susteren, who has a cushier prime-time slot.

In an interview with the Associated Press Thursday, Fox News chief Roger Ailes gave some more insight into the decision to take Beck’s show off the air.

“That story – of what’s going on and why America is in trouble – I think he told that story as well as it could be told,” Ailes said. “Whether you can just keep telling that story or not … we’re not so sure.”

Major advertisers were also increasingly skittish about being associated with Beck’s program, despite his large audience. On Thursday, his sponsors included companies selling gold coins, muscle relaxing lotion and “survival seeds,” along with a charity asking viewers to send $25 to sponsor Passover food boxes for Jews overseas.

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