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At the same time
Ford was being lauded as an anti-Semite hero in Europe, he was confronted
with another lawsuit in America. This one came from Herman Bernstein, the
same man who had helped to expose The Protocols of the Learned Elders of
Zion as a forgery. In the August 20, 1921 issue of the Independent, Bernstein
had been identified as the source on the Peace Ship who revealed to Ford
the supposed worldwide Jewish conspiracy. "He told me most of the things
that I have printed," Ford claimed in the article, which labeled Bernstein
"the messenger boy of international Jewry."167
An outraged Bernstein denied the allegations and, in 1923, sued Ford for
$200,000. He told the press that he was doing a public service by allowing
the American people to get a "true picture" of Ford's "diseased imagination."168
however; was too preoccupied with other matters to pay much attention to
the lawsuit. Instead, he was focusing all of his efforts towards acquiring
Muscle Shoals. Muscle Shoals was the series of dams and power plants that
would later be known as the Tennessee Valley Authority. After World War
I, it was decided by the government to open the newly created area to private
development. Ford saw it as a chance to create an ordered society away
from the big cities, which he despised.
As with all his schemes, Ford took this one to the press, declaring
at one point that his plans for the property would "benefit the whole
world" and would even "eliminate war...."169 However; he was only offering $5
million for a project that had cost the government $85 million and that
was worth $8 million in scrap alone.170
His offer was met with open resistance in the Senate, and his bid for the
property was in danger of never gaining government approval. In an effort
to win public support, Ford visited farmers living in the Muscle Shoals
valley and had the Independent publish articles that championed the "American
farmer." However; in order to supply a steady stream of articles and to
give Ford a "crusade" for the farmers, a more focused campaign was needed.
On April 23, 1924, the Jewish articles resurfaced on the pages of Ford's
paper. "Jewish Exploitation of the American Farmer's Organizations: Monopoly
Traps Operate Under the Guise of Marketing Associations," ran the headline.
The opening line supplied the tone for the series that was to follow: "A
band of Jews-bankers, lawyers, moneylenders, advertising agencies, fruit
packers, produce buyers, professional office managers, and bookkeeping
experts- is on the back of the American farmer."171
A typical article would show a picture of a celery field, with the accompanying
caption reading: "Every stalk of celery.. .pays direct tribute to Jewish
domination of the cooperative marketing system in this section of the United
States."172 As with the previous series,
these articles used a number of prominent Jews as scapegoats for the accusations,
including Bernard Baruch, Albert Lasker; Otto Kahn, Eugene Meyer; and Julius
Rosenwald. However; the main thrust of the campaign was directed at Chicago
lawyer Aaron Sapiro.
was a proud, controversial figure notorious for his short temper. Born
in poverty and raised in an orphanage, he had originally studied to become
a rabbi. He later switched over to law and eventually worked as a cooperative
organizer for fruit growers in California. Most of the Independent's attacks
centered on his "Sapiro Plan." This plan involved organizing farmers under
cooperatives in an effort to eliminate middlemen and wholesalers and, in
the process, increase farm profits. By 1925, the Sapiro Plan possessed
a membership of 890,000 farmers nationwide and had the endorsement of the
National Council of Farmer's Cooperative Marketing Association. According
to The New York Times, Sapiro was the leader "of one of the greatest agricultural
movements of modern times."173 He often stated that money meant nothing
to him when he was dealing with the farmers. Nonetheless, Sapiro was as
famous for his high fees as he was for their productive results.
William J. Cameron,
once again, supervised the articles in the campaign. This time, however;
they were actually written by a former newspaperman, Henry H. Dunn, under
the pen name of Robert Morgan. In his correspondence with the Independent,
Dunn said that proving the conspiracy was the hardest story that he had
ever handled. Among the obstacles that he encountered was the fact that
Jews and Gentiles were both equally active in the cooperatives. Another
problem was that, although Dunn was convinced that Sapiro had "skinned
the farmers out of thousands," the farmers were actually making more money
than ever. Not surprisingly, it was hard to find ones who were willing
to condemn Sapiro in print.174
The attacks made
on Sapiro were incredible, even by the Independent's standards. Sapiro
was charged with leading "a conspiracy of Jewish bankers" who were forcing
farmers into the cooperatives. His Sapiro Plan had "turned millions away
from the pockets of the men who till the soil and into the hands of the
Jews and their followers."175 He was accused
of using "strong arm" tactics and squads of Bolshevists in order to inject
farm children with the germs of communism, so they would be "modeler's
clay" in his hands.176 His non-Jewish associates
were nothing more than "Gentile false fronts.., human camouflage of the
international ring of professional aliens."177
Even Liebold commented to Ford, "You know, Cameron is going a little bit
wild with this fellow, Sapiro." "That's just what I want," Ford responded.
"Don't you interfere with Cameron. If he can get me into a lawsuit with
Sapiro, that's just what I want. I'd like to see that fellow start a suit
Ford no doubt recalled his own libel suit and the trouble and ridicule
it had brought him. He may have had a case, but it was The Chicago Tribune
that had the influence. Now, Ford had influence of his own with The Dearborn
Independent. With his newspaper; he seemingly had more than enough money
and influence to win a case brought against him. He thought little of the
Bernstein libel suit and now welcomed one from Sapiro.
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167. New York Times, 19 August 1923, 2.
*168. New York Times, 19 July, 1923, 17.
169. Lacey, 223.
170. Ibid., 224.
171. New York Times, 22 March 1927, 1.
172. Sachar; 317.
173. New York Times, 12 March 1927, 17.
174. New York Times, 22 March 1927, 1.
176. New York Times, 15 March 1927, 1.
177. New York Times, 17 March 1927, 1.
178. Collier and Horowitz, 105.