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On July 1, it
was ruled that the retrial for the case of Sapiro vs. Ford would be held
in September. However; exactly one week after this announcement, Ford made
a public declaration of his own that surprised everyone. Desiring an immediate
end to the ongoing case, Ford had Joseph Palma, a New York government agent,
contact Louis Marshall and ask for his assistance in making amends. "I
wish this wrong could be righted," he was quoted as saying.199
Ford was informed that he must make a formal apology and retract his anti-Semitic
accusations. Marshall, along with Arthur Brisbane and a few other members
of the American Jewish Committee, drew up the apology for Ford to give
to the press. Ford investigator Harry Bennett received the apology and
called up his boss. "It's pretty bad, Mr. Ford," Bennett informed him.
"I don't care how bad it is," Ford replied, "you sign it and settle the
thing up." Bennett tried to read the contents to Ford over the phone, but
Ford cut him off, reiterating, "I don't care how bad it is, you just settle
it up. The worse they make it, the better."200
Bennett then forged Ford's signature to the document and sent it back to
Although it was Marshall's
goal to humble Ford somewhat with the apology, it actually was not as bad
as it could have been. The apology went along with what Ford's attorneys
had argued during the trial in that he had been totally ignorant of what
his newspaper had been printing. The apology acknowledged that Ford was
the publisher of The Dearborn Independent and The International Jew. However;
in his "multitude of activities," he had been unable to pay attention to
what made up their contents. "To my great regret," read the apology, "I
have learned that Jews generally, and particularly those of the country,
not only resent these publications as promoting anti-Semitism, but regard
me as their enemy." The document went on to defend such an assessment,
in light of the "mental anguish" the articles had caused. This led Ford
to direct his "personal attention" to the subject and claimed to be "deeply
mortified" by what he had found. "Had I appreciated even the general nature,
to say nothing of the details of those utterances, I would have forbidden
their circulation without a moment's hesitation." The document praised
the Jewish culture for its vast contributions to civilization, and for
its sobriety, diligence, benevolence, and "unselfish interest in public
welfare." "Those who know me," the document asserted, "can bear witness
that it is not in my nature to inflict injury upon and occasion pain to
anybody, and that it has been my effort to free myself from prejudice."
Therefore, he was "greatly shocked" by the publications done in his name.
He saw it as his duty as an "honorable man" to make amends to his Jewish
brothers by "asking their forgiveness for the harm I have unintentionally
committed." The statement then presented a retraction of Ford's charges
against the Jews and a promise that, henceforth, they may look to him for
friendship and goodwill.201
was a remarkable attempt at public image revisionism. In order for the
public to accept it, they would conveniently have to forget all of the
press interviews in which Ford had condemned the Jews. They would have
to forget the anti-Semitic statements found in his own autobiography. They
would have to forget his proclamation in 1921 that he had a "five years'
course in sight" of anti-Jewish articles.202
They would have to forget the press releases that announced:
"The Dearborn Independent is Henry Ford's own paper and he authorizes
every statement incurred therein."203 They
would have to forget Cameron's boast at a 1924 Ford branch manager's convention
that "We never step out on any unusual program without first getting his
Ford was trying to get away with an obvious fabrication of the truth.
Liebold himself would later state, "Mr. Ford knew everything that was going
on.... There was no one who could get by with putting anything over on
Mr. Ford such as conducting a campaign against the Jews. As long as Mr.
Ford wanted it done, it was done. "205
the statement was largely embraced by the press. The New York Herald Tribune
praised Ford for conducting himself "in a manner which handsomely emphasizes
his regret" and his intent to end his anti-Semitic publications.206
The Des Moines Register proclaimed that "It takes size to do a grand thing
in a grand way."207
the most praise, however; from Jewish publications. The Jewish New York
Tribune expressed "profound satisfaction," while The American Hebrew declared
that the statement "breathes honesty and sincerity." The Jewish Daily proclaimed
its belief that Ford acted out of sincere regret, rather than for any business
or political motives.
Even the music
industry cashed in on Ford's apology. Future theatrical producer; Billy
Rose, published a ditty entitled "Since Henry Ford Apologized to Me":
"I was sad and I was blue
But now I'm just as good as you
Since Hen-ry Ford a-pol-ogized to me
I've thrown a-way my lit-tie Che-vro-let
And bought my-self a Ford Cou-pe
I told the Sup-'rin-tendent that
The Dearborn In-de-pen-dent
Does-n't have to hang up where it used to be
I'm glad he changed his point of view
And I even like Edsel too,
Since Hen-ry Ford a-pol-o-gized to me
My mother says she'll feed him if he calls
'Ge-fil-re-fish' and Mat-zah balls
And if he runs for President
I would-n't charge a sin-gle cent
I'll cast my hal-lot ab-so-lute-ly free
Since Hen-ry Ford a-pol-o-gized to me."208
The outpouring of Jewish praise was so great that Louis Marshall publicly
warned against exaggerated expressions of felicity. Marshall was amazed
by how the Jewish community could go from one extreme to the other; "Only
last week Henry Ford was regarded as a Hamen and they are almost willing
now to declare him a Mordecai."209 The
Jewish Telegraphic Agency agreed, stating that there was a limit to every
manifestation of joy. Ford's apology, therefore, did not need to be greeted
with such an "hysteric outburst."
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199. Richards, 99.
200. Bennett, 97.
201. A Century's Jewish Progress (New York: Civic Press, 1933) Copy
from Anti-Defamation League.
202. New York Times, 5 December 1921, 33.
*203. New York Times, 10 June 1921, 3.
204. Gelderman, 232.
206. New York Times, 9 July 1927, 1.
207. John Bell Rae, ed., Henry Ford (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice
Hall, 1969), 113.
208. Lewis, 147.
209. New York Times, 14 July 1927, 26.