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White House Condemns Fox News Over Host’s Holocaust Comments
July 26, 2023
The White House denounced Fox News this week over comments by one of its hosts, Greg Gutfeld, that some Jews “had to be useful” as a means for survival in Nazi concentration camps, calling his remarks “an obscenity.”
Mr. Gutfeld, who took over the 10 p.m. time slot last week as part of a reshuffling of programming at Fox, made the comments during a debate on “The Five” about Florida’s new African American history curriculum. New instructions for middle school students, championed by the state’s governor, Ron DeSantis, say students should be instructed that “slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit,” a depiction that has drawn widespread rebuke.
During an exchange with Jessica Tarlov, a co-host who equated the new history standards to saying Jews derived some benefit from being imprisoned during the Holocaust, Mr. Gutfeld asked her about the work of Viktor Frankl, a Jewish psychiatrist who wrote about his struggle for survival at Auschwitz and other Nazi camps.
“Did you ever read ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’?” Mr. Gutfeld said. “Vik Frankl talks about how you had to survive in a concentration camp by having skills. You had to be useful. Utility. Utility kept you alive.”
Ms. Tarlov did not address Mr. Gutfeld’s question directly, instead saying she was concerned about middle school children being taught what Florida had set in its new curriculum.
A White House spokesman, Andrew Bates, released a statement on Tuesday condemning Fox News for broadcasting Mr. Gutfeld’s comments, calling them “a horrid, dangerous, extreme lie that insults the memory of the millions of Americans who suffered from the evil of enslavement.” He added, “There was nothing good about slavery; there was nothing good about the Holocaust.”
Fox News has not commented on Mr. Gutfeld’s statement.
Background: A rocky relationship with Fox News.
Fox News and the Biden White House have long had a contentious relationship. And neither has been shy about airing their differences in public. Much as the network’s hosts and commentators are not shy about pillorying President Biden and his administration on any number of topics — inflation, the president’s age, the legal woes of his son Hunter — the White House has often attacked the credibility of Fox, the nation’s leading source of conservative news.
Just last month, Mr. Bates accused the network of “lying through their teeth,” adding that a Fox reporter had misrepresented the subject of an article about the display of a Pride flag when contacting the White House media office for comment.
The president himself has been vocal — and sometimes testy — about Fox’s questioning of his record. When the Fox News correspondent Peter Doocy asked Mr. Biden last year if inflation might be a political liability for him, Mr. Biden responded under his breath with vulgar language.
Why It Matters: Controversies are costly for Fox.
Controversies over offensive statements by Fox News hosts are nothing new for the network. But they have been costly in many ways.
Fox agreed in April to pay $787.5 million to Dominion Voting Systems over broadcasting false information that Dominion had participated in a plot to steal votes from President Donald J. Trump.
Years of advertiser boycotts, set off by nativist and racist sentiments promoted by hosts like Tucker Carlson, left Fox News with few blue chip companies willing to advertise. That advertising had begun to return to Fox after it took Mr. Carlson off the air in April and canceled his show.
Jeremy W. Peters covers media and its intersection with politics, law and culture. He is the author of “Insurgency: How Republicans Lost Their Party and Got Everything They Ever Wanted.” He is a contributor to MSNBC. More about Jeremy W. Peters