Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Hank Williams, Jr. & Playing The Hitler Card

Photo Credit: jcrawford3505
Hank Williams, Jr. is a country music singer that is perhaps best known to my generation for the "Monday Night Football" intro that he's been doing for the past two decades. But Williams has now become known to millions more for his recent comments about President Barack Obama.

While being interviewed on Fox News recently, Williams made a comparison between President Obama and Adolf Hitler. When asked by the interviewer to clarify his remarks, Williams held firm in what he said.

CNN.com gives the background:
"This week, in an appearance on Fox News' "Fox and Friends" on Monday morning, Williams referred to a June golf game with Obama and House Speaker John Boehner on the same team, against Vice President Joe Biden and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, as "one of the biggest political mistakes ever."

Asked what he didn't like about it, Williams said, "Come on, come on. That'd be like (Adolf) Hitler playing golf with (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu. Okay. Not hardly."

When one of the Fox News interviewers later pointed out that Williams invoked "one of the most hated people in all of the world to describe ... the president," Williams responded: "That is true, but I'm telling you like it is, you know. That just wasn't a good thing. It just didn't fly. So anyway, like Fred Thompson said, you don't want to ask me a question because I'm going to give you too straight of an answer. So talk about something else."
After his remarks became a hot topic, ESPN decided to pull Hank, Jr.'s MNF intro this week. He then issued the following statements on his website:
"Some of us have strong opinions and are often misunderstood. My analogy was extreme – but it was to make a point. I was simply trying to explain how stupid it seemed to me - how ludicrous that pairing was. They’re polar opposites and it made no sense. They don’t see eye-to-eye and never will. I have always respected the office of the President.  Every time the media brings up the tea party it’s painted as racist and extremists – but there’s never a backlash – no outrage to those comparisons… Working class people are hurting – and it doesn’t seem like anybody cares. When both sides are high-fiving it on the ninth hole when everybody else is without a job – it makes a whole lot of us angry. Something has to change. The policies have to change.”

“I have always been very passionate about Politics and Sports and this time it got the Best or Worst of me. The thought of the Leaders of both Parties Jukin and High Fiven on a Golf course, while so many Families are Struggling to get by simply made me Boil over and make a Dumb statement and I am very Sorry if it Offended anyone. I would like to Thank all my supporters. This was Not written by some Publicist.”
In his attempt at a mea culpa, Williams commits the classic error that so many of us are guilty of these days. It is the "non-apology" apology. The reason why we are apologizing in the first place is because we hurt or offended others. But the language that Williams uses of "I am very sorry if it offended anyone" simply isn't sincere. If Williams said what is truly in his heart, then he should stick to his convictions and deal with the consquences.  If he feels like his statements don't accurately reflect his true sentiments, then he should offer a more sincere clarification and apology.

Based on his "non-apology" apology, it appears that Williams meant exactly what he said in his original comments and I doubt he's sorry at all. Because we live in the United States of America, he has the freedom to say what he'd like. But the rest of us also have the freedom to call him on it when he makes a ridiculous comparison of a democratically elected president to an evil dictator that was directly responsible for the loss of millions of lives.

Part of Williams' political frustrations is that members of the Tea Party, who he sympathizes with, are often unjustly characterized as extremist or racist and there is no resulting media outcry. And he may have a point there. But if he doesn't want to be painted as an extremist, why would he make an absurd comparison between President Obama and Hitler? Standing up for hard-working Americans is noble but Hitler analogies are just a bad idea.

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