Fox News 'Nazi' Rhetoric Starts At The Top

Fox News Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes.

Fox News Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes called NPR executives "Nazis." He later apologized for the comments, but not to NPR. Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

Fox News and NPR once again found themselves in the news Thursday, this time driven by the comments of Fox News chief Roger Ailes, who in published remarks referred to NPR executives as "Nazis" for terminating the contract of news analyst Juan Williams.

Ailes offered an apology of sorts, but his remarks were hardly out of character for the network.

On his TV and radio shows, Glenn Beck has attacked the Obama administration and its liberal allies as Nazis several times.

"You have to think like a German Jew [in] 1934," he said on his radio show on one occasion.

On another, he said on Fox: "Well, some believe that the idea of eugenics got ugly before they started gassing Jews and homosexuals."

Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank has followed the rhetorical blasts and footage on Beck's show closely.

"A lot of it is the imagery — you know the Nazi banners, the Nazi parades," said Milbank, author of a new book on Beck called Tears of a Clown. "We've seen this movie before — as the Nazis march across the screen."

But Beck often pivots, warning viewers as well about a shadowy government in a way that some of his critics say evoke classic elements of anti-Semitic slurs.

The piece de resistance — by far — came just last week about the liberal billionaire financier George Soros, who is a Jewish survivor of the Holocaust. Beck called him "The Puppet Master."

"He's known as the man who broke the Bank of England. The prime minister of Malaysia called Soros an unscrupulous profiteer. In Thailand he was branded the economic war criminal," Beck said on Fox earlier this month. "They also said he sucks the blood of people."

Deborah Lipstadt, professor of Holocaust Studies at Emory University, says Beck is using traditional anti-Semitic imagery. She notes that the Malaysian prime minister cited by Beck had also ranted that Jews were behind his economy's instability, and that Beck even claimed Soros as a young teen collaborated with the Nazis in his native Hungary.

"I haven't heard anything like this on television or radio — and I've been following this kind of stuff," Lipstadt said. "And I've been in the sewers of anti-Semitism and holocaust denial more often than I've wanted."

Beck tied Soros to a variety of foundations and media groups, including NPR, which has received a $1.8 million grant for local reporting from Soros.

Beck and Ailes are by no means the first to call others Nazis. But Fox News does stand out amid mainstream media outlets for its ferocity and frequency in doing so. Milbank found Beck had referred to Hitler or Nazis on his Fox News program several hundred times.

Fox News did not comment for this story. However, in February 2009, Beck told NPR that Ailes promised him free rein when he joined Fox.

Glenn Beck

Fox host Glenn Beck has attacked the Obama administration and its liberal allies as Nazis several times. More recently, his description of liberal billionaire financier George Soros as "The Puppet Master" has drawn criticism. Jose Luis Magana/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Jose Luis Magana/AP

"He said, 'I look at this place as the Alamo.' I said, 'How do you mean?' And he said, 'Just nobody gonna shut anybody up here. This is where the truth will take its last stand. You say it as you believe it.'"

That very month, Beck dipped into his treasure trove of Nazi allusions to assail former Vice President Al Gore's appeal for environmental awareness.

"The government and their friends are indoctrinating our children for the control of their minds, your freedom, our choice and our future ," Beck said on his show. "This is what Nazi Joseph Goebbels said about the Hitler Youth."

When asked why he would say that, Beck replied: "I don't think Al Gore is going to put anybody in gas chambers. I don't think we're actually going down that road.

"But when I heard him say, 'Well, you know, your parents don't understand the things you instinctively know,' you've got to be kidding me, right? Next — why don't you have them report on me if they're not recycling as well?"

In remarks published in the Daily Beast on Thursday, Ailes said this of NPR executives: "They are, of course, Nazis. They have a kind of Nazi attitude. They are the left wing of Nazism."

Former Fox News Chief White House correspondent Major Garrett, who is now at the National Journal, has only positive things to say about Ailes. But when he first heard about Ailes' comments about NPR, he said: "I don't even know — I don't even know where that comes from. It's um. Wow."

Ailes apologized, not to NPR, but in a letter to a Jewish advocacy group, saying he should have said "nasty inflexible bigot" — not Nazi.

NPR officials say he's missing the point — and that his rhetoric off the air, too, is an insult to NPR's journalists and listeners.

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