Roger Ailes On Concerns Over Fox News' Holocaust References: “Have You Ever Heard Of Freedom Of Speech?”

An Esquire blog post sheds light on Fox News President Roger Ailes' response to outrage over Glenn Beck's incessant use of Nazi and Holocaust imagery to smear progressives and Beck's false smear that philanthropist George Soros helped “send the Jews” to “death camps” as a child:

The Roger Ailes Experience is simply the access -- or even the intimacy -- afforded by Roger Ailes when you engage him in argument, and the best example I heard in the interviews I conducted in order to write about him was provided by Simon Greer, who heads an advocacy group called Jews for Justice.

Greer was offended by Glenn Beck's incessant use of Holocaust references and co-signed a letter of complaint to Roger Ailes. “Within a week,” Greer says, “we heard from Ailes, saying he'd be willing to meet at our convenience.” So began Greer's Roger Ailes Experience: Not only did he wind up meeting Ailes along with a group of rabbis, he also wound up liking Ailes, indeed having a moment with him, in which humanity was revealed and sympathy presumed.

“I said, 'I have a young son. Imagine what it's like to watch this with him. Imagine what it's like to watch 400 Holocaust references from Glenn Beck. What should I say to him?' Roger looked visibly shaken by it. He said, 'This is a problem, this concerns us.' In the end, we agreed that the use of the word 'Nazi' for anything you happen to dislike is offensive. And he said, 'We'll talk to Glenn, and invite you back for a meeting with our producers.' He also said, 'The door is always open and you can always call us back.'”

Ten days later, Greer received a handwritten note of apology from Glenn Beck. He subsequently gave an interview to Yahoo's Upshot blog about the note and about the meeting that prompted it, after which he got an e-mail from Ailes, in which Ailes expressed his regret that Greer hadn't kept the meeting private. “But he said that I had characterized the meeting accurately, and basically said, 'We're good, Simon.'” And for a time Greer noticed a decrease in Beck's appropriation of Jewish suffering for his own purposes.

Then, in short order last fall, Beck devoted three programs to attacking Jewish financier George Soros, in part by implicating him as an agent of the Holocaust. Did Ailes take the resulting uproar seriously? “I think Rupert got a few letters,” he told Esquire. “He sent them down to me. I answer them -- I just say, Well have you ever heard of freedom of speech? It's in the Constitution, we do it, and I'm sorry you didn't like, but if Mr. Soros would like to come on our channel and present an alternative view, we would be happy to have him.”

Within days, Ailes himself referred to the executives who fired Juan Williams from NPR as Nazis, and in the face-saving apology he wrote to his friend Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation-League, he blamed Greer and the rabbis associated with Jews for Justice for starting the controversy with their “unscrupulous behavior” in publicizing the meeting they had with Ailes. Did Greer have anything to do with Ailes's invocation of Nazism in his description of NPR? No, but by this time Ailes was recasting the entire episode as yet another attempt to destroy him -- in fact, as an outright plot against him, which he survived by guile.