On Wednesday, the Hollywood Reporter informed us that Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott had personally intervened in order to prevent an ad for an Oscar-nominated documentary short, A Night at the Garden, from running nationwide during Sean Hannity’s show. The seven-minute doc, directed by Marshall Curry, is based on archival footage of a 1939 rally of American Nazis at Madison Square Garden, embellishing striking images of salutes and swastika armbands with an unsettling and tense musical score.
Imagine this ad running between Hannity segments:
Imagine Fox viewers then turning to the internet to see the short themselves:
“The reason that Fox News gave for rejecting the ad is absurd and disingenuous,” Curry told me in an email. Marianne Gambelli, president of ad sales for Fox News, told the Daily Beast that the ad was “full of disgraceful Nazi imagery regardless of the film’s message and did not meet our guidelines.” However, as the Daily Beast pointed out, Fox did allow Dinesh D’Souza to advertise his movie Death of a Nation on air, in a trailer that also included Nazi imagery. And Curry noted that a spot from the Simon Wiesenthal Center, featuring footage of concentration camps and contemporary Nazis, ran during Tucker Carlson Tonight last month.
But D’Souza has made his name arguing that Democrats are the real Nazis, and the Wiesenthal Center’s ad includes allegations of anti-Semitism in connection with Iran and with England’s Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn—a different kind of “Nazi imagery,” and one much more congruent with the perspective of Fox’s viewership. The choice not to run A Night at the Garden’s spot seems, inevitably, to have been a political one. “If the decision were a simple question of broadcast standards, why did it reach the CEO of Fox News?” Curry asked. “I am sure she is extremely busy and there are other people who handle cut-and-dry broadcast standards questions.”
A Night at the Garden’s great strength is the way it highlights the strange mix of German fascism and American jingoism at the 1939 rally. A giant portrait of George Washington hangs behind the stage, and the 20,000 assembled Nazi sympathizers sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” and recite the Pledge of Allegiance. How could Americans in the 1930s support the Nazi Party? The movie makes it clear that in the United States, as elsewhere, fascism came cloaked in Fox-style patriotism.
Ironically, Fox’s decision only serves to demonstrate the film’s relevance, and to alert more viewers to its existence—though perhaps not the Hannity-loving audience whom the short’s producers were originally hoping to reach.