ESPN is no longer ready for some Hank Williams Jr. on Monday Night Football after his ill-advised Hitler play on Fox and Friends Monday morning. That has sparked a new scrimmage over free speech and political correctness.
It is also the latest reminder that invoking the names Hitler or Nazis really takes rhetoric to new, ugly levels.
Williams, whose politics are no secret, was invited on the Fox News morning show to assess the GOP Presidential primary field. He said he didn’t like any of the current candidates and expressed a particular distaste for efforts at bipartisanship, even in a friendly game of golf.
“You remember the golf game they had, ladies and gentlemen? Remember the golf game?” Williams said, referring to the June round of golf Democratic President Barack Obama and Vice-president Joe Biden played with Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner and Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich at the height of last summer’s debt ceiling debate. “That was one of the biggest political mistakes ever. That turned a lot of people off.”
Asked why, Williams said, ”It’d be like Hitler playing golf with Netanyahu,” referring to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It was a comment that even seemed to startle the conservative Fox hosts.
Some people have correctly pointed out that at that moment, Williams did not say President Obama was like Hitler. But toward the end of the interview, co-host Gretchen Carlson pointed out that Williams had just compared Obama to “one of the most hated people in all of the world to describe, I think, the President,” and Williams replied, “Well that’s true. But I’m telling you like it is.”
ESPN quickly replied, ”While Hank Williams Jr. is not an ESPN employee, we recognize that he is closely linked to our company through the open to Monday Night Football. We are extremely disappointed with his comments, and as a result we have decided to pull the open from tonight’s telecast.”
ESPN did not say weather Bocephus’ signature All My Rowdy Friends opening has merely been benched or kicked off the MNF team, but it was pulled from Monday night’s broadcast.
Like we said, Hank’s politics are well known. He campaigned with Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin in 2008 and gave crowds plenty of red meat in his stage patter and songs, warming up for the then-Alaska Governor. So if Hank being an outspoken Republican was a turn off too you, you’ve had plenty of notice.
But Monday, in what was a rambling an incoherent commentary, Williams made the same mistake people on the left and right constantly make and never learn from: making comparisons to Hitler and Nazis.
It seems to trip off people’s tongues so easily, but it is rarely a fair comparison.
If anyone needs a reminder what the Third Reich did, a trip to Washington D.C.’s Holocaust Museum will be a sobering reminder. I highly recommend it.
Dictators and warlords who perpetrate human right atrocities in countries like Somalia and Rwanda can be fairly compared to Nazis.
There are, unfortunately, leaders in current and recent history such as Saddam Hussein who can draw fair comparisons to Hitler.
But not agreeing with someone’s economic ideas or health care plan does not make them a Nazi.
Yes, Hank Williams Jr. can walk into the street and say pretty much anything he wants and remain a free, and in his case wealthy, man.
And ESPN is free to say, you and your rowdy friends can take the party somewhere else.
Freedom of speech doesn’t mean you are freed from the consequences of your speech.