The Bryan County News has apparently jumped into the breech in support of Col Kent and his quest to remove “A Henry Ford City” from Richmond Hill signage.
I have written on this subject before; as a matter of fact, it was exactly one year ago. Instead of reprinting what I said then, readers can find the story at “A Henry Ford City” dated February 15, 209.
My focus this time is the editorials and news content of the Bryan County Times covering this story. It is obvious they are fully in support of Col Kent. This is reflected in their editorials and the slant of various stories covering Henry Ford, and in particular – his antisemitism as well as various reactions around town.
Ms Potter wrote an editorial, “Here we go again” in which she made it quite clear, through her selection of words and phrases to reflect Henry Ford in the worse possible light, she would like nothing better than to see this “offending” phrase removed. This is acceptable as she was writing an editorial, not a news item. What is not acceptable are blatant falsehoods. She states, “He even traveled to Germany to personally accept an award from Hitler...”. She goes on in the next paragraph and states, “..there are pictures that prove that meeting took place.“.
I would be delighted to know the source of Ms Potters information. All of my research indicates the award ceremony took place in his (Henry Fords) own office. The award was presented by the Consul stationed in Cleveland. And the award ceremony took place in March of 1938. The date is important as it was a full 18 months before Germany invaded Poland. The award was given due to the work the Ford Motor Company German factories had done in making cars and trucks for Germany. And the photos of the award ceremony (the real one) can easily be found by Googling it.
A prudent and reasonable person reading the two different sentences would easily draw different and opposing conclusions. A short survey of friends and neighbors reveal seven of ten queried believe Mr Ford made that trip having heard the story before (three hadn’t heard anything of the sort). This belief, although lamentable regarding the shortcomings of a knowledge of history are not surprising as far as it goes. But; a newspaper editor (and part owner) of the towns local newspaper who is reporting on a local issue has a very real responsibility to “get it right”, not print Internet rumors. A few minutes spent fact checking would have revealed the facts.
It is very easy and convenient to judge past historical figures and events based on our moral and ethical standards of 2010. If we are to strip any favorable recognition from historical figures because of some character or moral flaws found within that person, we will find ourselves shortlisted indeed. Ideally, we can learn from their character flaws as well as their scientific, military, political, or artistic abilities.
As an additional note, if the “offending” phrase were removed from the towns signage, would that be the end of it? According to Col Kent? Sure, although his new supporters may not be so amiable to the solution. Call me a skeptic , but I find it highly doubtful this would be the end of this matter, as these matters rarely come to an easy close. We have a statue of Henry Ford in City Hall, a street named for him, a plaza named for him, and a housing development named for Henry Ford. They would be targeted very quickly I am sure.
Some late corrections:
Although I started this blog to make a correction, it turns out I had to make three corrections of my own when Jeff Whitten of Bryan County News responded to an E-mail.
1. The paper is the Bryan County News; not the Bryan County Times.
2. The medal was awarded in July of 1938 not March. Now my sources all said July. My notes said July. I have absolutely no idea why I typed March. But, I thank Mr Whitten for catching my error.
3. Ms Potter is the “editorial director and part owner” not the “editor and part owner” as I stated.
It should also be clarified at this time, the slant I referred to as found in the news stories is actually the slant found in the columns which are found on the editorial page, but are not editorials. There is a distinction between the two that I did not fully appreciate.
I appreciate Mr Whitten taking the time and patience to point out these errors.