Country-wide press comment expresses satisfaction at Ford’s recantation. Nevertheless, the press generally is amazed or incredulous or both at the statement in the apology that the owner of the “Independent” had not known what his magazine was printing.
“Imagine a publisher letting seven years go by before directing his ‘personal attention’ to what was being printed in his paper!” exclaims the Knowville “News Sentinel”, which estimates “the artlessness of the apology” as “rivaled only by the old, old story of the ‘Babes in the Woods’.”
The Anniston Star considers that Mr. Ford’s “admission that he did not know the tenor of the writings that were appearing in his own paper” will cause him to “lose prestige as a publicist and as an executive,” and the Flint “Daily Journal” remarks: “We are certain that Henry Ford knows exactly what is being issued from his factories in the shape of automobiles and other products, staff or no staff. If he has actually not seen what has been printed in the ‘Dearborn Independent’ then he has made a confession of incredible short-sightedness.”
“Was ever journalism thus conducted before?” asks the Louisville “Courier-Journal”, while the Charleston “Daily Mail” declares: “That very freedom of the press of which we boast as a people, and which is perhaps the most precious of all our possessions, by its very freedom imposes the greatest of responsibility upon those who would exercise it.” The Tulsa “Daily World” believes that if Henry Ford “did not read his own publication … then he stands self-convicted of being unworthy of the high privilege of owning and publishing a periodical of any character.”
Says the Winston-Salem “Twin City Sentinel”: “No man has any right to sponsor a journal of any kind unless he knows what it is doing. There is no place for falsehood, untruth, half-truth or gross errors in journalism. Mistakes will sometimes be made: errors will sometimes appear. This is inevitable. But there is no excuse for a deliberate perversion of facts, which Mr. Ford admits took place in the ‘Dearborn Independent’, the conduct of which he had turned over to others.” concludes the “Sentinel”.
“A publisher cannot, of course, have personal knowledge of all that goes into his publication,” says the Omaha “World Herald”, “but it is only an exceptional one who can be blind to something which has been going on for five years and which everybody else apparently, except himself, is fully aware of,” and the Richmond “News Leader” calls attention to the fact that “every other publisher is held responsible for the general editorial policy of his paper, though single articles, written in his absencem, may not reflect his views.”
“The ‘Dearborn Independent’ is the property of Henry Ford to do with as he sees fit,” observes the Memphis “Commercial Appeal”. “That he is in a position to dictate its policies is evidenced by Ford’s own statement that he has ordered the periodical to discontinue permanently these hostile articles.” The San Bernardino “Sun” also thinks the statement “hardly seems to be an acceptable or an accurate alibi.”
Taking the position that “it is only too plainly and pitifully evident that Mr. Ford is but dimly aware of the enormity of his offense,” the St. Louis “Post Dispatch” declares that “the essence of his offense was its wretched un-Americanism. its ignorant, preposterous and, at times, malevolent intolerance,” and, this St. Louis paper continues “Is there anything more deplorably violative of the spirit of our Constitution, more criminally perfidious to our traditions and our political credo, more insidiously destructive of our institutions than the systematic preaching of race hatred?”
The Dayton “Daily News” holds that “hardly in our time has so conspicuous a man confessed to so egregious, so inexplicable an error.”
Many of the papers feel, however, that Mr. Ford’s present action should be taken at its face value. The Rochester “Times-Union” is glad because of his announcement that “his name will no longer be connected with encouragement here of that anti-Semitism which is a disruptive force in a number of countries.” and the Washington “Evening Star” thinks Mr. Ford’s statement “was a manly, courageous act which calls for warmest praise and congratulation.”
The Detroit “News” says: “Whatever the inspiration, his retraction evidently comes from the heart and is characteristically complete.”
The Washington “Post” says: “The premise that Ford aspires to the Presidency can be attributed only to the dearth of actual news. The conclusion that the Democrats would take his candidacy seriously is the most unkind thrust that has yet been directed at that much maligned party.”
An editorial in the Pittsburgh “Sun” says: “Let the ugly chapter now be closed. Mr. Ford’s retraction is complete and earnestly sincere on its face. The publications complained of were made by the intolerant the basis of promotion of ill-feeling. May the retraction now, in the hands of the tolerant, be made the instrument of promoting good-feeling throughout the land.”
“Mr. Ford should not sell the “Pearborn Independent,” declares the Suffolk. Va., “News-Herald.” He should ‘kill’ it, junk his files and pamphlets, and buy in every copy extant if he had to pay a thousand dollars a copy for them. He should then make a bonfire of the whole outfit and thus purge himself of all intent to injure without cause a race which has just as much right to be respected as any other on the face of the earth for it has won that right through ages of toil and suffering and sacrifice.
“Henry Ford is not a bad or a malicious man. Actually he is just the opposite. But this experience should teach him that every man is not fit to publish a newspaper even if he have ambitious.”
In the same way the Pittsburgh “Chronicle-Telegram” writes: “The injury he has done cannot be repaired by mere words, however sincere his sorrow and repentance. The remaining years of his life may well be devoted to rebuking and combating racial and religious prejudices, whereever these evils show their ugly heads. They are wicked and un-American and to be condemned unsparingly by all good citizens of this land of liberty.”
The Birmingham, Ala., “Age-Herald” says: “They are ready to let by-gones be by-gones, in the hope that this conspicuous accession to the ranks of fair play will so seriously cripple the forces of prejudice and suspicion that the United States will soon be again a harbor where ships carrying every flag of faith may rest at peace.”