In campaign to end the skilled worker shortage, Mike Rowe unafraid of reaching into both sides of the aisle

Updated Nov 1, 2013
Photo illustration of Mike Rowe with TV personalities Bill Maher (left) and Glenn Beck (right). Credit: The Real Mike Rowe Facebook pagePhoto illustration of Mike Rowe with TV personalities Bill Maher (left) and Glenn Beck (right). Credit: The Real Mike Rowe Facebook page

As part of his Profoundly Disconnected campaign to make students and, really, the country in general, aware of the opportunities and good money available to those who choose a career in the trades, Mike Rowe has been making a lot of appearances lately.

A little while back he appeared on Bill Maher’s HBO show “Real Time” and more recently he went on Glenn Beck’s radio show (which is also broadcast on TheBlaze TV, which Beck founded). Maher and Beck and both polarizing figures for their respective and opposing political views and, unsurprisingly, Rowe reports that he took some flack from his fans for both appearances.

“Mike – Saw you hangin with Bill Maher. I had no idea you were a liberal,” wrote Bob Reidel to Rowe after his appearance on “Real Time.” “Really blew me away. Love everything you do but now that I know who you really are, I won’t be tuning in to watch anything your involved with.”

Ouch. Then there was this from Shannon K. Walsh: “Mike – How could you associate with such a horrible and psychotic person that is Glen Beck? I wouldn’t accept a dime off that hateful, nasty racist. Very disappointed to see this post.”

“Truth is, every time I go on Fox, my liberal friends squeal. And every time I show up on MSNBC, my conservative pals whine. Not because they disagree with my position – everyone agrees that closing the skills gap is something that needs to happen,” Rowe writes on his Facebook page. “No, these days, people get bent simply if I appear on shows they don’t like, or sit too close to people they don’t care for.”

Rowe has responded to these comments in the hopes that people will put their political dispositions aside to realize that he’s trying to reach all Americans with this issue, not just the ones you agree with personally. Rowe says Profoundly Disconnected “is not a PR campaign for Mike Rowe.”

“It’s a PR campaign for skilled labor and alternative education. PR campaigns need … that’s right, PR, and if I limit my appearances to those shows that I personally watch, hosted only by those personalities with whom I personally agree, I might as well start a church and preach to the choir,” Rowe explained.

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Rowe called Maher “a perfect gentleman” and called Beck a “passionate guy” who “works his butt off, and puts his money where his mouth is.”

But Rowe gets to the heart of the matter with this response to Walsh’s question: “You want to know ‘how I can associate’ with someone you don’t like? The short answer is, how can I not? How are we ever going to accomplish anything in this incredibly divisive time if we associate only with people that we don’t disagree with?”

Exactly. Rowe notes that he doesn’t see eye-to-eye on everything with Beck politically but says that after his appearance on Beck’s show, Beck handed over a $25,000 check for the mikeroweWORKS scholarship that we detailed a couple weeks back and allowed Rowe to shoot a few PSAs for the fund and campaign on his set for free.

“You know how many other networks have offered to do that? Not one. In addition, his viewers have purchased hundreds and hundreds of Work Smart AND Hard posters. I’m already getting photos of them hanging in high schools across the country,” Rowe said.

And none of that would have happened if Rowe hadn’t seen past the politics in service of the message. It’s something we can all learn from. We should seek to work together especially with those whom we disagree with. And Rowe is especially right in that if we ever want to close this skills gap, it will absolutely take everyone working together. Not just one side or the other.