Dear Mr. Ye:
In several recent interviews, you have indicated considerable animosity toward individuals with Jewish ancestry and an unapologetic affection for individuals who currently or in the past have described themselves as Nazis. On an appearance on the Info Wars program you stated, “I like Hitler.”
You are certainly not alone in expressing such views. Comments reviling Jews and other minority groups in America and celebrating fascism and the militarism associated with it are increasing in frequency and frankness. The more mainstream these comments become, the more likely it is that individuals endorsing these views and encouraged by the widespread acceptance of their validity will act on them. Given your celebrity and the legions of Americans who respect your opinions, I feel obliged to respond to your recent comments.
No one can deny that you have been a highly creative entertainer, an astute businessman, and in many respects a remarkably successful American. Given your achievements, one must wonder why you have chosen the promotion of fascism and antisemitism as your latest endeavors. You are not the first remarkably talented and successful American to embrace a toxic ideology which blames much of America’s dilemmas on Jewish people. Henry Ford, William Randolph Hearst, Charles Lindbergh, and a host of other American notables adopted the same positions you now embrace, and in every instance, it diminished their stature and legacy. These men did not face the overt racism that you obviously faced in your struggle for success, but your intelligence in overcoming those obstacles makes your recent hate-speech all the more puzzling.
You said you like Hitler, but he clearly would not have liked you. Aside from being an antisemite, the justification for which he set forth in absurd detail in his self-congratulatory book “Mein Kampf,” he was also an uncompromising racist. At the 1936 summer Olympic games in Berlin, Germany, Adolph refused to acknowledge or congratulate any of the African American gold medalists, including the incredible Jesse Owens, who took home four gold medals in track and field events. Whether he left the stadium when Owens triumphed or turned his back on the African-Americans who won medals or merely agreed to congratulate no athletes after refusing to shake hands with African-American medalists (despite having shaken hands with German and Finnish medal-winners) is still an item for debate. What is not controversial is that he believed black athletes should not be allowed to compete because he did not consider them to be human. He described competition between black and white athletes as a mismatch of animals versus people. He did not mean this as a compliment.
Hitler’s antisemitism actually contributed to Jesse Owens’ remarkable achievement at the 1936 games. One of the four gold medals he won was for the four-man 100 meter relay. He was not originally scheduled to compete in that event. A day before that event, two of the runners, Marty Glickman and Sam Stoller, both of whom were Jewish, were replaced by Jesse Owens and Ralph Metcalfe. Jesse Owens actually objected to the switch on the grounds that he had three medals already and was exhausted. He was told to shut up and do as he was told. The uncontested basis for the elimination of the Jewish runners was Avery Brundage’s (the president of the American Olympic Committee) own antisemitism and his concern that a victory by Jewish men would embarrass Hitler.
Your recent statements indicate that you believe you are being targeted by a monolithic cabal of people arising from a single religious persuasion. On the contrary, you are just a highly successful American in a country whose national pastime is not baseball: it is taking cheap shots at celebrities. Fielding them with tact and humor is part of the job description.
Our country has a long and painful history of racism and bigotry. The overt signs advocating hate are less numerous than they were two or three generations ago, but the sentiments linger and need to be extinguished. Signs that announced “Restricted Clientele,” “Whites Only,” “No Dogs or Jews Allowed,” and “Irish Need Not Apply,” etc. may no longer be at the entrances to establishments across our country, but the prejudices that motivated their deployment are still very much alive.
The world learned nearly a century ago that a nation that promoted hate speech could evolve over the course of only a few years into the perpetrator of unimaginable crimes against humanity. Embracing the ideas and celebrating the leaders of the regimes that led to the deaths of tens of millions of people and the unspeakable misery of hundreds of millions more is dangerous and stupid. You may have had unnecessary challenges and suffered unwarranted attacks in your struggle to succeed, but embracing Nazism, fascism, and antisemitism and denying the toll these “isms” caused in the not distant past is self-destructive and hazardous to the health of the nation in which you have prospered.
People listen to what you say, and many trust your judgment. They may not actively follow your lead, but they are more likely to look the other way when those who feel empowered by your words act on your suggestions. Your hate-tinged, antidemocratic statements are being adopted and re-iterated by groups that have spent the past two centuries denying African-Americans their rights and the opportunities guaranteed to all Americans. You are feeding the monster that seeks to destroy you.
Dr. Lechtenberg is an Easton resident who graduated from Tufts University and Tufts Medical School in Massachusetts and subsequently trained at The Mount Sinai Hospital and Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in Manhattan. He worked as a neurologist at several New York Hospitals, including Kings County and The Long Island College Hospital, while maintaining a private practice, teaching at SUNY Downstate Medical School, and publishing 15 books on a variety of medical topics. He worked in drug development in the USA, as well as in England, Germany, and France.