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Anti-Defamation League Condemns Dearborn Mayor for Killing Story on Henry Ford

February 07, 2019, 12:05 PM by  Allan Lengel

The head of the Anti-Defamation League, an international Jewish organization that battles anti-Semitism and bigotry, denounced Deaborn Mayor John B. O’Reilly Jr.'s decision to block distribution of an article in a city publication, The Dearborn Historian, that talked about Henry Ford's history of anti-Semitism.

In a letter published in The New York Times, Jonathan A. Greenblatt, chief executive and national director of the Anti-Defamation League, wrote:

We believe that the mayor of Dearborn, Mich., made an unfortunate mistake in halting distribution of a historical journal simply because it included a special report about the industrialist Henry Ford’s promotion of anti-Semitism.

It’s undeniable that Ford was anti-Semitic and used a variety of platforms to promote his unabashedly hateful comments about Jews. In the early 1920s, Ford published “The International Jew,” a four-volume, anti-Semitic work based on the 19th-century anti-Semitic forgery "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion."

By 1927, however, responding to pressure from the Anti-Defamation League and others, Ford publicly repudiated “The International Jew” and apologized. Still, his anti-Semitism has remained a powerful tool for those trying to validate their beliefs, from Hitler to modern-day bigots.

Ford’s anti-Semitism is a stain on his legacy — a stain that shouldn’t be whitewashed. The journal’s distribution should move forward so that the public can have a fuller understanding of Ford’s moral failings and how his actions fueled some of the most virulent forms of American anti-Semitism that continue to this day.

The letter was in response to New York Times coverage

The situation arose after Bill McGraw, co-founder of Deadilne Detroit, wrote a story about Henry Ford for the city's quarterly history magazine. He was its part-time editor. 

The Historian upset city hall when it arrived from the printer with a 10-page cover story that marked the 100th anniversary of Ford buying the Dearborn Independent weekly newspaper, which he used to attack Jews. The mayor put the kibosh on mailing it to 240 subscribers and fired McGraw.

McGraw shared the story with Deadline Detroit, which published it Jan. 24. That triggered an avalanche of interest.

Last Thursday, the Dearborn Historical Commission passed a resolution supporting the article and McGraw, and asked the mayor to let the magazine be mailed. To date, the mayor has taken no action to mail the magazine or rehire McGraw. 

► The Story That Stirred the Controversy

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