ESPN boots Hank Williams Jr for Obama-Hitler comparison

posted at 9:25 am on October 4, 2011 by Ed Morrissey

Were you ready for some football?  A Monday night party?  If you were, you might have noticed one of the regulars didn’t make an appearance.  ESPN booted Hank Williams Jr from its broadcast last night after remarks he made on Fox & Friends comparing Barack Obama to Hitler:

After ESPN dropped Hank Williams Jr. from opening Monday Night Football tonight after Williams’ controversial comments Monday about President Obama, the singer now says he was“misunderstood.”

Says ESPN, in a statement: “While Hank Williams Jr. is not an ESPN employee, we recognize he is closely linked to our company through the opening to Monday Night Football. We are extremely disappointed with his comments, and as a result have decided to pull the open from tonight’s telecast.”

Williams, perhaps best known for his “are you ready for some football?” lead-in to ESPN’s Monday Night Football, Monday compared this summer’s so-called golf summit between Obama and House Speaker John Boehner as “one of the biggest political mistakes ever.”

As Williams put it on Fox News’ Fox & Friends: “It would be like Hitler playing golf with (Israeli leader) Benjamin Netanyahu.”

When asked on Fox to explain his analogy, Williams said Obama and Vice President Biden are “the enemy.”

It’s the second time that ESPN has enforced its political-neutrality rule in the last two months.  They publicly rebuked Azinger for criticizing Obama on Twitter in August, although they didn’t remove him from the air.  That may well be due to the qualitative difference in the remarks; Azinger tweeted that he’d played less golf than Obama this year and created more jobs, while Williams went for the LaRouchian Obama-is-Hitler hyperbole.  It’s not clear whether ESPN meant this as a one-game suspension or a personnel change, but by next week that should be clear.

Of course, Williams says he was “misunderstood.”  Was he?  You be the judge:

To paraphrase Robert Downey Jr in Tropic Thunder: You never go full LaRouchian, dude. Never.

I don’t think Williams was misunderstood at all; he was pretty blunt about it, and claiming that people didn’t catch some alleged nuance is just laughable.  But should that mean that anyone who makes Hitler comparisons to contemporary political leaders should be barred from NFL performances? If so, then the NFL might need to reconsider its latest entertainment decision:

Will Madonna take the field at halftime during the Super Bowl come February?

Madge is reportedly in talks to headline the 2012 halftime show at Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis, which would mark her debut on the massively watched pro football telecast — that according to a sports blog citing a source “close to the event.” …

Recent halftime performers have included the Black Eyed Peas, Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty. Madonna would in theory have a blank canvas to showcase her catalog of work, from the “Like a Virgin” days to her most recent, electric-hop record, “Hard Candy.”

Yeah, that’s just what the Super Bowl needs — another middle-aged pop star well past her prime giving us a “Sweating to the Oldies” set.  But Jammie Wearing Fool recalls when Madonna was positively LaRouchian herself, in 2008:

Madonna kicked off her Sticky & Sweet Tour in the U.K. Saturday, and stirred up a beehive of controversy by comparing Republican presidential nominee John McCain to Adolf Hitler in a video montage during the show.

During the song “Get Stupid,” Madonna flashed images of McCain alongside photos of Hitler and brutal Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, as well as images of destruction and global warming, according to British paper The Times.

By contrast, in the next segment of the performance, she used the image of Democratic nominee Barack Obama alongside pictures of John Lennon, Mahatma Ghandi and Al Gore.

Frankly, I’d watch football if both of these two performed, or if neither of them did.  I really couldn’t care less if Williams performs before every Monday Night Football game or if Madonna breaks out the bustier for a halftime gig at the Super Bowl.  I’ll be getting the veggie tray and drinks during halftime anyway.  What I do care about is a double standard when it comes to political expression by entertainers that penalizes conservatives while giving progressives a pass.

Update: There’s been some silly defenses of Williams in the comments that claim he didn’t compare Obama to Hitler.  Williams himself admitted he did:

“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,” Williams said. “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.”

None of which makes anyone Hitler, champ.  Hitler wasn’t Hitler because he had fundamental disagreements with a political opponent and playing golf while unemployment remained high.  Obama and Biden are political opponents, not enemies.  Find better analogies or stick to the honky-tonk music.

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Eff ESPN and ABC… I’ll quit watching your crap

roux on October 4, 2011 at 9:39 PM

Piss on ESPN.

hillbillyjim on October 4, 2011 at 9:48 PM

Lord, I guess he went and broke their….

Family Tradition.

hillbillyjim on October 4, 2011 at 9:56 PM

You said “Goodwin’s” twice, so I don’t know if you were making a joke or not, but all of your points here relating to Godwin’s Law are correct, except for the one about it being “false”. Mike Godwin, the originator of Godwin’s Law, understands that the mere mention of Nazism itself isn’t a problem, it’s its misuage which is. Many people don’t seem to know that his Law is only a commentary about the likelihood of Nazi references being made as an online discussion grows in length; it has nothing to do with fallacious argumentation.Bizarro No. 1 on October 4, 2011 at 4:07 PM

Thanks for clearing up Godwin’s Law for me. I only knew it from the context I had seen it used and didn’t bother to go look up the definition for myself.

My point, as you agree, still stands though. Using an analogy that involves Hitler does not invalidate an argument.

Pattosensei on October 4, 2011 at 10:16 PM

I haven’t watched the NFL for 10 years + now. Maybe the demographic has change so much, that Like a Virgin really does represent today’s NFL fan? More than Hank Jr?

MNHawk on October 5, 2011 at 7:19 AM

Why was Madonna hired by the NFL? Her actions with respect to McCain were as bad, if not worse, than what Hank did.

As for Ed’s admonition of not comparing Obama to Hitler, that’s OK. What I do object to is any argument that we ought not compare Obama’s crony socialism, class warfare and efforts for redistribution with other forms of socialism. Obama is a socialist. The use of taxes and regulation to control the economy while allowing for private ownership of business so long as owners are cronies or obediant to the political authority can be compared to features of the economic systems of Mussolini’s Italy and Hitler’s National Socialist Germany. The use of class warfare and redistribution can be compared to features of Bolshevik socialism.

Phil Byler on October 5, 2011 at 8:26 AM

Dennis Miller gave a shout out to Ed and Allah on this post today.

Ted Torgerson on October 5, 2011 at 2:06 PM

I’ll do the same thing I did when Olberman did football for NBC, I’ll tune in after the hemorrhoid of NBC’s “Football Night” Halftime Show was off the screen. I’ll still watch, but it will be half way through the first quarter. Just my way to say “You don’t know who is watching your program”. I agree with Williams, he was misunderstood.

MJZZZ on October 6, 2011 at 6:38 PM