Hank Williams Jr. Did Not Compare President Obama to Adolf Hitler
Yesterday afternoon, I caught a segment of NPR’s Tell Me More, in which host Michel Martin and guests from ESPN Magazine, USA Today and something called TheWiseLatinaClub.com discussed ESPN’s decision to pull Hank Williams Jr.’s song “Are You Ready?” from the opening of its Monday Night Football broadcast after he went on Fox News earlier in the week and compared our president to the mastermind of the Holocaust. “This was clearly a step too far,” declared Martin. “They should get rid of that song forever,” added the USA Today reporter. “To pick the name Hitler is so reprehensible and just so awful, that it seems to me this goes well beyond free speech …”
The problem is, Williams did no such thing.
Not that anyone cares about the facts, of course. No, it’s a much better story to say that this bearded fiddle-playing racist hick country singer from Shreveport, Louisiana—hee haw! squeal like a pig, boy!—went on national television and compared the first African-American president of the United States of America to a man responsible for the deaths of millions of Jews.
It’s such a good story that it’s precisely the one that most “news” organizations are running with. Just Google the phrase “Hank Williams Jr. Compares Obama to Hitler” (in quotes), and you’ll get 208,000 hits from the past few days. The Fuhrer must be elated to know that he’s still making headlines.
But let’s all calm down just for a minute.
On Monday, Williams went on Fox & Friends, the morning show for the Red States, where he was asked who he liked among the current GOP candidates. (No one, in case you care what Hank Williams Jr. thinks.) Then he felt the urge to express his distaste for Obama’s ill-advised “golf summit” with Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner. And here’s what Williams said: “It would be like Hitler playing golf with Netanyahu, okay?”
So you see, Williams did not say that our president was like Adolf Hitler, which sure is what all those headlines make it sound like he said. What he was trying to say (and, in doing so, reminded us once again that recording artists should stick to recording) is that our president’s golf game with Boehner was like an imaginary golf game between Hitler and the prime minister of Israel. They’re mortal enemies. Get it?
It’s just a silly analogy about a silly golf outing, but one that speaks volumes about the immense partisan divide that is shaping the future of this country. And it doesn’t look good. And that’s what we should be talking about. Not Monday Night Football.