Arizona Pol Triggers Flap By Praising Henry Ford

By Rebecca Spence

Published August 18, 2006, issue of August 18, 2006.
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A flap has erupted in Arizona over a Scottsdale congressman’s recent book slamming illegal immigration, in which he praised thoughts by automaker Henry Ford on “Americanization” that are regarded by historians as anti-Jewish.

In his new book, “Whatever It Takes: Illegal Immigration, Border Security, and the War on Terror,” Republican Rep. J.D. Hayworth espoused Ford’s ideas on the early 20th-century concept of “Americanization” and touted them as a model for integrating new immigrants into American society. In turn, the Jewish News of Greater Phoenix took the lawmaker to task in an editorial, describing Ford’s vision as antisemitic.

The controversy surrounding Hayworth, who describes himself as a Christian conservative, comes at a time when many in the Jewish community are debating the uneasy alliance that has developed in recent years between evangelicals, who paint themselves as unflagging supporters of Israel, and American Jews, a traditionally liberal voting bloc. While Republicans defended Hayworth’s comments by citing his long-standing support for Israel, some Democratic analysts said that Hayworth’s insensitivity to Ford’s antisemitic polemics illustrates the dangers of cozying up to Christian conservatives.

“J.D. Hayworth’s comments reaffirm the concerns of many in the Jewish community about any type of alliance with Christian conservatives,” said David Goldenberg, deputy executive director of the National Jewish Democratic Council. “Henry Ford was one of the most outspoken and well-known antisemites in American history, and for a U.S. congressman to embrace him and his views, especially those on the theory of ‘Americanization,’ is extremely dangerous.”

Matt Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, defended Hayworth, pointing out his commitment to the Jewish state. “J.D. Hayworth has been a longstanding and unhesitating supporter of Israel,” Brooks said. “His views on Henry Ford not withstanding, this is in no way a reflection on his own personal actions and his support for the Jewish community during his time in Congress.”

Brooks declined to answer any follow-up questions.

In the 1920s, Ford’s Dearborn Publishing Company released “The International Jew,” a conspiratorial, four-volume work that portrays Jews as scheming to assert world domination. In it, Ford lays out the theory that Judaism and “Americanism” are inherently at odds with one another. Ford was also known to have accepted the Grand Service Cross of the Supreme Order of the German Eagle, an award bestowed on him by Hitler.

Hayworth’s book, a 194-page manifesto on the failures of American immigration policy, assails multiculturalism and voices support for the Minutemen, a vigilante group that has charged itself with monitoring American borders. In his chapter on the merits of assimilating immigrants into American society, Hayworth quotes from a 1914 New York Times article in which Ford said: “These men of many nations must be taught American ways, the English language, and the right way to live.” In his book, Hayworth wrote, “Talk like that today and our liberal elites will brand you a cultural imperialist, or worse. But if you ask me, Ford had a better idea.”

The tussle over Hayworth’s book comes as immigration-reform legislation has stalled in the House of Representatives and members of both parties are scrambling to gain traction on the hotly contested issue in an election year.

Hayworth further stoked the debate over his passage on Ford when he declined to distance himself from the book’s language and accused the Jewish News of playing party politics. In a letter to the Jewish News, Hayworth called the newspaper’s attack “a politically motivated hit job” stemming from the fact that its publisher had made financial contributions to the six-term congressman’s Democratic opponent in the current election campaign, Harry Mitchell.

“This has nothing to do with Henry Ford or antisemitism; it’s all about politics,” Matt Lambert, a spokesman for Hayworth, said in a statement to the Forward. Citing the publisher’s campaign contributions, the statement continued, “This was nothing but an orchestrated political attack that violated just about every journalistic code of ethics in existence.” Lambert declined to address specific questions regarding Hayworth’s views on “Americanization.”

The newspaper’s publisher, Florence Eckstein, acknowledged having made a $2,000 donation to Mitchell’s congressional campaign, but said that the editorial on Hayworth “had nothing to do with politics and everything to do with Hayworth’s position as an elected official who we would hope had a stronger sense of history.”

Eckstein also said that the editorial did not accuse Hayworth of antisemitism, but faulted him for failing to understand what lay behind Ford’s philosophy.

“There’s been plenty of room for him to explain himself,” Eckstein added, “and he’s chosen not to do that.”

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