Skip To Content
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.

Support the Forward

Funded by readers like you DonateSubscribe
Culture

Trump likes Henry Ford’s “bloodline.” So did Charles Lindbergh

There are a lot of things Donald Trump could praise the Ford Motor Company for.

At its inception, the automobile manufacturer made cars accessible and reduced the strain on laborers through the assembly line process, and, just recently, the corporation began producing ventilators and face shields to support hospitals during the coronavirus pandemic. That last effort prompted the president to deliver a speech at a Michigan Ford plant on May 22. In his remarks, Trump opted to evoke the era of those earlier innovations.

“The company founded by a man named Henry Ford,” Trump said Thursday, in the presence of Ford’s great-grandson, Bill Ford Jr. “Good bloodlines, good bloodlines — if you believe in that stuff.”

Well, if there was one thing Henry Ford believed in — apart from keeping prices low and offering consumers any color car “so long as it’s black”— it was eugenics. So, well done pleasing the founder.

The fact that Trump made mention of the “good bloodlines” of a notorious bigot, who subscribed to race science and promulgated an anti-Semitic forgery in his paper, was not lost on anyone. Twitter users and reporters quickly chimed in to point out the insensitivity of the remarks. The head of the Anti-Defamation League, Jonathan Greenblatt, called on the president to apologize. Meanwhile, David Simon, co-creator of HBO’s “The Plot Against America” miniseries, thanked the president for the free plug.

For those wanting a refresher on Henry Ford’s true character, you could do worse than Simon’s miniseries. While it’s an alternate history — based on Philip Roth’s 2004 novel of the same name — it presents a credible depiction of Ford’s views on race. As in Roth’s book, Ford serves as secretary of the interior for Charles Lindbergh’s isolationist administration. But Simon gives him more to say, making Ford the truly hateful mouthpiece of the presidency while Lindbergh — following his infamous Des Moines speech — sticks to anodyne prepared statements.

“He hates Jews, everyone knows it,” Evelyn Finkel (Winona Ryder) says of Ford in the series.

“He does and yet he will be entirely polite when you meet him,” says Rabbi Lionel Bengelsdorf (John Turturo), who engineered Lindbergh’s Jewish “integration” programs. “Because you have the president’s ear, and the president is not, despite what others say, a Jew hater, so Mr. Ford will behave.”

Of course Lindbergh didn’t like the Jews. He and Ford were natural allies; they were the first Americans to receive medals from the Reich. When Evelyn does meet Ford — at a state dinner for Nazi Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop — he is not on his best behavior.

Lindbergh snubs Bengelsdorf. But when Finkel tells Ford (Ed Moran) that she feels like she’s at a “Southern debutante ball,” he tells her, “If this were the South, you Jews would be out back, rilin’ up the n—ers.”

After a moment of shock, Evelyn offers a quick response: “Gay kocken offen yom.”

Go shit in the ocean. According to Simon, Ryder insisted on delivering the line to someone. But by having her say it to Ford, Simon and co-creator Ed Burns gave Ford’s legacy of vile anti-Semitism, racism and — yes, race science — the salute it deserves.

Thankfully, hatred isn’t hereditary. By all means, laud the Ford family for its good work now, but don’t bring blood into it.

PJ Grisar is the Forward’s culture fellow. He can be reached at [email protected]

Engage

  • SHARE YOUR FEEDBACK

  • UPCOMING EVENT

    SKY & SCULPTURE

    Hybrid: Online and at the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan

    Oct 2, 2022

    6:30 pm ET · 

    A Sukkah, IMKHA, created by artist Tobi Kahn, for the Marlene Meyerson JCC of Manhattan is an installation consisting of 13 interrelated sculpted painted wooden panels, constituting a single work of art. Join for a panel discussion with Rabbi Joanna Samuels, Chief Executive Director of the Marlene Meyerson JCC of Manhattan, Talya Zax, Innovation Editor of the Forward, and Tobi Kahn, Artist. Moderated by Mattie Kahn.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.