Hitler comparison makes news — again

By · Tuesday, October 4th, 2011

UPDATE: ESPN has announced it will permanently drop Hank Williams Jr.’s song, “All My Rowdy Friends,” as its musical opening for Monday Night Football.


There are lessons for us everywhere — every day — and not just on our favorite journalism sites.

Today’s lesson? It’s on ESPN.com, where there’s a report this morning that last night the network pulled the Monday Night Football opening song, “All My Rowdy Friends.”

It has been the trademark musical kickoff for the past 20 years. Why did the Hank Williams Jr. song not air? Because in a recent interview segment with FOX, Williams compared President Obama to Hitler.

ESPN wanted no part of that; there’s no word on how long the “ban” will last. Williams has issued a statement, only somewhat less confusing than his FOX remarks.

In our Think Like an Editor book, under a list of “Warning Signs in Stories” is the entry: Any and all comparisons to Hitler.

It is amazing how people continue today to say these things.

You really can’t blame FOX; to its credit, show hosts called Williams out on his outlandish and very confusing comments. Williams himself didn’t seem to understand the analogy.

But we continue to see these kinds of things — and the issue will spring up in print and online again, soon, and again and again.

In print and online, editors do work in a different environment than TV. What would you do if someone who was locally “famous” or quite well known made such a statement? Would you print it, or not? Would it make a difference who said it? The mayor, or a “man on the street”?

One thing is for sure. Discussions should take place — on deadline or not — because there will be a reaction.

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