Ford began his attacks on Jews in 1920, intensifying postwar discontent with the potent conspiracy theories of “The Protocols.” He ordered his dealers to distribute copies of the Independent as they sold cars, and he directed the newspaper to be mailed, unsolicited, to schools, libraries and hospitals all over the country. Initially, leaders of the American Jewish community decided to ignore Ford and his newspaper, in hopes that no one would pay attention. But the Independent’s circulation soon reached 700,000, and it became clear that the strategy had failed.
One brave American stood up to Ford and demanded that he retract the anti-Semitic articles in the Independent. When Ford refused, Aaron Sapiro, an agricultural lawyer from Chicago, sued him for libel in federal court in 1927. I was the first scholar to find documentation of the lawsuit in the Ford archives that are open to the public. Ford actively participated in the management of the Independent and in the preparation of the defense in the libel suit. Once he realized a guilty verdict was almost certain, Ford manufactured grounds for a mistrial, planting false accusations against Sapiro and one of the jurors in the Detroit Times. The litigation bankrupted Sapiro, who never recovered professionally. Ford shut down the newspaper, but “The International Jew” continues to be published all over the world.