Roger Ailes Calls NPR 'Nazis,' Walks it Back
In an interview with the Daily Beast that appeared on Wednesday, Roger Ailes, president of the Fox News Channel, said that NPR executives "have a kind of Nazi attitude" and called them "the left wing of Nazism." He apologized the next day--not to NPR, but to the Anti-Defamation League. Ailes's comments and subsequent apology attracted a great deal of attention, some of it outraged and some of it amused. Here's what's being said about the flap:
Ailes's Original Remarks... While speaking with Howard Kurtz of The Daily Beast, Ailes offered his thoughts on the NPR executives who fired Juan Williams last month for making controversial statements about Muslims on airplanes. Ailes said of the NPR heads: "They are, of course, Nazis. They have a kind of Nazi attitude. They are the left wing of Nazism. These guys don't want any other point of view. They don't even feel guilty using tax dollars to spout their propaganda. They are basically Air America with government funding to keep them alive."
...His Apology (With Extra Bonus Insult)... In a subsequent letter to Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, Ailes walked back his statement, saying: "I was of course ad-libbing and should not have chosen that word, but I was angry at the time because of NPR's willingness to censor Juan Williams for not being liberal enough ... I'm writing this just to let you know some background but also to apologize for using 'Nazi' when in my now considered opinion 'nasty, inflexible bigot' would have worked better."
...And the Reaction The Daily Beast quotes Foxman's response: "I welcome Roger Ailes apology, which is as sincere as it is heartfelt. Nazi comparisons of this nature are clearly inappropriate and offensive. While I wish Roger had never invoked that terminology, I appreciate his efforts to immediately reach out and to retract his words before they did any further harm." NPR spokeswoman Dana Rehm was less satisfied with Ailes's retraction: "We are disappointed that Mr. Ailes directed his apology only to the ADL, and amazed that his statement substituted a new insult to replace his original scurrilous remark. This ongoing name-calling is offensive to NPR, its member stations and the 27 million listeners who rely on us."
This Is Beyond the Pale, writes Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo. "When I saw the headline that Fox News capo Roger Ailes said that NPR was run by Nazis I was figuring this was at least something of a loose summary of what he said. Turns out, no, he literally said NPR is run by Nazis. What a shocking, awful thing to say. Hideous."
Ailes Is Even a Jerk In His Apologies, marvels blogger Mistermix at Balloon Juice. "If you had any question whether Roger Ailes is the world's greatest living asshole, his apology for yesterday's NPR are Nazis comments will remove all doubt. He apologized to the Anti-Defamation League, not NPR, because everyone knows that saying 'sorry' only works if you say it to the nearest handy Holocaust survivor and/or Jew."
So Much for Fair and Balanced Representative Eliot Engel, a Democrat from New York, spoke out against Ailes on the House floor on Thursday. "If Mr. Ailes is the president of Fox News and claims to be fair and balanced, he should keep his comments to himself," said Engel. "If he wants to be a commentator then he should do so, but if he wants to pretend to be a so-called 'fair and balanced' president of a major news organization, he ought to know better than to utter such hateful words."
You Have to Admire Ailes's Canniness Blogger Digby at Hullabaloo notes that "it's now thoroughly mainstream for right wing news executives and commentators to accuse liberals and journalists of being Nazis, murderers and terrorist sympathizers --- while liberals and journalists who express alarm at such things are marginalized as extremists ... This is a masterful working the refs move. NPR does not see itself as an ideological organization and (like so many liberals) is embarrassed to be accused of bias, so its people will subconsciously go out of their way to prove that they aren't. Nobody knows how to manipulate the news environment like Ailes."
Speak Up, Mara Liasson! "NPR's Mara Liasson thinks Fox News is a legitimate news outlet and doesn't see anything wrong with getting paid to appear on its programs," Eric Boehlert writes at Media Matters. "Does Liasson want to continue to be associated with Fox News when its chief is lobbing hateful and demeaning attacks against Liasson's longtime employer?" Boehlert goes on to say that "with his unhinged interview this week, Ailes has now raised the bar on NPR hating," and wonders: "Will Liasson finally step forward and defend her colleagues from these insane attacks? ... In other words, is there anything Fox News can do to demean and destroy NPR that Liasson will publicly object to?"
A Flurry of Jokes While all this was going on, Twitter was having fun with the #NPRGoesNazi hashtag. New York Magazine points us to some choice selections: "Fatherland Home Companion," "Fresh Bags of Hair," "This American Lebensraum," "We Have Ways Of Making You Car Talk." Tablet has a few more: "Goerring Edition," "Morning becomes 'Night,'" "This American Life, No Longer With The Jew Ira Glass." And the list goes on: "Deutschland Uber Alles Things Considered," "Prarie Home Invasion," "Pledge Drive (Into Poland)," "Make Me Wait And I Will Make You Tell Me," and, of course, "This Aryan Life."
Jake Tapper Is Not Amused Tapper, the senior White House correspondent for ABC News, excused himself from the Twitter party Thursday afternoon, tweeting, "Going off twitter. Let me know when the liberals joking about the Holocaust (in response to Ailes' comments) stop. All of it is awful." He was back 24 minutes later with another message: "no, i'm not peace-outing twitter. trying to stop a sick hashtag being pushed by people who should know better. 'bags of hair' aint funny." Choire Sicha at The Awl notes that "to be fair, 'being against Holocaust jokes' is sort of a low bar in standards."