The mayor of Dearborn, Michigan has caused a national outcry after firing the editor of a magazine which ran an article about the antisemitic nature of the city’s most famous inhabitant.
John B. O’Reilly fired Bill McGraw, editor of the Dearborn Historian, and ordered the recall of all copies of the latest issue of the city-produced magazine after it ran a cover story on the virulent antisemitism of Henry Ford.
In a statement, the Dearborn mayor said: “It was thought that by presenting information from 100 years ago that included hateful messages — without a compelling reason directly linked to events in Dearborn today — this edition of The Historian could become a distraction from our continuing messages of inclusion and respect.”
The full article was subsequently published by the Deadline Detroit website.
Mr Ford was one of the most famous businessmen of the early 20th century. The founder of the Ford Motor Company, his adoption of assembly line techniques helped him build an automobile empire.
An avowed antisemite, he also used a newspaper, the Dearborn Independent, he purchased in 1919, antisemitic articles were disseminated to hundreds of thousands of readers.
Mr Ford also paid for the publication and dissemination of half a million copies of the translation of a notorious antisemitic forgery The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, as well as having some of the most inflammatory antisemitic articles from his paper published in a booklet called The International Jew.
Adolf Hitler described Mr Ford as “my inspiration” and kept a photo of the businessman behind his desk, saying that he “admired particularly his anti-Jewish policy”.
Carolyn Normandin — the ADL’s Michigan regional director — responded to Mr O’Reilly, saying there was “no disputing [Ford’s]… bitter and prolific antisemitism… no reason to hide this sordid moral flaw in his character.
“Particularly in light of the fact that antisemitism has risen dramatically in the past few years, it is more important than ever that the public understand the roots of this most virulent form of hate and the historical underpinnings of its recurrent resilience in America.”
Ford is still the largest employer in Dearborn, and many of the most prominent buildings in the city are named for the company’s founder.
The company has remained in the hands of the Ford family. However, subsequent generations have repudiated the views of the company’s founder.
Henry Ford II, the founder’s grandson, refused to boycott Israel after its founding in 1948, while William Clay Ford Jr, the current chairman of the car company, was honoured in 2015 by Steven Spielberg's USC Shoah Foundation Institute with its Ambassador for Humanity Award for his leadership in education and the community.
A spokesperson for the city made it clear that Mr O’Reilly had "made [his]… without discussing it with the Ford Motor Co. or Ford family."
While Ford did not comment directly on the Mayor’s decision, the company released a statement saying: "Ford Motor Company has a long and rich history as a company that supports equality and fairness to all people, and condemns any form of discrimination.
“Ford Motor Company's position on any form of discrimination is well documented and the company remains committed to the advancement of understanding and goodwill among all races, religions and cultures."