August 1, 2013
Bill O'Reilly of Fox News ( Frank Micelotta/Associated Press)
Bill O’Reilly of Fox News ( Frank Micelotta/Associated Press)

The New Haven Register has apologized to Fox News for suggesting that its views on race in America draw their inspiration from the heritage of the Ku Klux Klan. The editorial, which was published Monday, decried the emergence of a KKK chapter in Milford, Conn. The organization is embracing “new tactics,” noted the piece: “Violence, cross-burning and obscenely racist epithets have been replaced with ‘neighborhood watches,’ toy drives and racist code words.”

After detailing the outrage over the news, the New Haven Register sought to make a larger point: “[T]the same basic message that the KKK has promoted for 148 years is embraced by the likes of Ted Nugent, Fox News, Ann Coulter, a burgeoning array of fringe ‘conservative’ media and members of our own community commenting on stories on the New Haven Register’s website.”

Fox News doesn’t agree. Last night on his program, Bill O’Reilly recounted the New Haven Register’s slam and then said this:

“The editor of the ‘New Haven Register’ is Matt DeRienzo, the publisher Tom Wiley. The paper is owned by a hedge fund, if you can believe it, the boss is Randall Smith. And we asked those men to discuss that irresponsible editorial. They all declined because they are cowards and they know they cannot defend that vile, libelous piece of garbage. The “New Haven Register” should be ashamed. The paper has lost all credibility and it had better apologize in writing by the end of the week. I’m not going to let this go.”

O’Reilly, the king of cable news, should be pleased with this piece on the New Haven Register Web site. Published today under the byline of Matt DeRienzo, group editor of the New Haven Register, The Middletown Press and The Register Citizen, it reads, in part:

We did not intend to compare Fox News specifically to the KKK and we should have done a better job clarifying that when we said that the “same basic message that the KKK has promoted for 148 years is embraced by the likes of Ted Nugent, Fox News, Ann Coulter, a burgeoning array of fringe ‘conservative’ media.” It was a poor choice of words that created an unfortunate comparison between Fox News and the KKK. We’re sorry for that. We did not intend to make any such comparison. This comparison should have been more specific to Nugent’s and Coulter’s views and statements about people of color, immigrants and gay people, and to be clear, was relating that to the ideology of the KKK, not its abhorrent history of violence.

We stand by our criticism and call for Fox News to challenge and condemn the hatred and racism advocated by guests such as Ted Nugent and Ann Coulter instead of continuing to give them a platform.

We made these points Wednesday in a statement to Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly program, which intended to address the editorial on its 8 p.m. show Wednesday night.

Bolded text added to spotlight a failure of rhetorical finesse. When you invoke the KKK, you invoke the entirety of the KKK, its ideology, its terror, its violence, its history — everything. KKK analogies may not be safely circumscribed. After all, attempting to cleave the group’s ideology and “abhorrent history of violence” is a bit untenable considering that ideology generally drives strategy.

Another question: Is the New Haven Register apologizing and standing by its criticism at the same time? Here’s how DeRienzo squares that circle at the end of his piece: “There’s no comparing Fox News and the Republican Party to the KKK, and we were wrong in making that connection. But it is mind-boggling that they would help legitimize and give voice to people who are reading from their syllabus.”

Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.