While Bill O’Reilly and Fox News get much credit for seasonal claims of a “War on Christmas” waged by the secular left, a progressive blog site says the perennial cultural clash finds roots in a brand of early 20th century anti-Semitism propagated by automobile manufacturer Henry Ford.
“Last Christmas most people had a hard time finding Christmas cards that indicated in any way that Christmas commemorated Someone’s Birth,” claimed an article published in Ford’s Dearborn Independent newspaper on March 19, 1921. “Easter they will have the same difficulty in finding Easter cards that contain any suggestion that Easter commemorates a certain event. There will be rabbits and eggs and spring flowers, but a hint of the Resurrection will be hard to find.”
The excerpt, pointed out by Frederick Clarkson and Chip Berlet at Talk to Action, is from a collection of articles published in book form under the title The International Jew: The World’s Foremost Problem, blaming the Jews for everything from the Bolshevik Revolution and the First World War to bootlegged liquor and cheap movies.
The book, published in 16 languages, was credited as a key influence on the growing Nazi movement in Germany. Adolf Hitler once described Ford as “my inspiration” and reportedly kept a picture of the American industrialist in his office. Ford is the only American mentioned by name in Hitler’s 1925 autobiography, Mein Kampf.
Ford, who first voiced his anti-Semitic leanings in 1915, eventually apologized for the Independent articles and retracted his anti-Semitic views in the context of a libel lawsuit. When Ford’s grandson, Henry Ford II, assumed control of the company in 1945, he launched a lifelong campaign to support both the American Jewish community and State of Israel, efforts that helped erase his grandfather’s legacy.
Dan Cassino, a professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University, traces the modern roots of the current Christmas wars to a 2006 book by a radio host John Gibson titled The War on Christmas: How the Liberal Plot to Ban the Sacred Christian Holiday Is Worse Than You Thought.
Gibson told the New York Times the book has taken on a life of its own over the years, crediting Fox News host Bill O’Reilly.
“Whenever the far-left viciously attacks you know you are on to something,” O’Reilly said in 2012. “Every year when we report secular progressive assaults on the traditions of Christmas, the crazy left loons begin a vitriolic campaign to diminish me and this program.”
A 2013 study by Fairleigh Dickinson University found that watching Fox News significantly increased the likelihood that someone would believe in the War on Christmas compared to consumers of other media outlets like MSNBC, Comedy Central’s Daily Show and NPR.
Clarkson said it is time to recognize the “repulsive anti-Semitic tradition” at the root of malevolent claims “carried forward today primarily by the Christian Right and the dour propagandists at Fox News.”
“I am always a little surprised that as a society we do not do a better job in response to the false and divisive claims that there is now, or ever has been, a war on Christmas in any sense of the term,” Clarkson said.