Jewish leaders in the United States called on Rupert Murdoch yesterday to punish two key employees at Fox News for allegedly desecrating the memory of the Holocaust and trivialising the use of the word "Nazi". They made their plea in a full-page open letter placed as a paid advertisement in one of Mr Murdoch's own newspapers.
The letter was signed by 400 rabbis, including the heads of all the main branches of American Judaism. It appeared in the US editions of The Wall Street Journal, which, like Fox, belongs to Mr Murdoch's media conglomerate.
Published on Holocaust Remembrance Day, it asked the media magnate to "sanction" Glenn Beck, a radio and television host with a loyal following among conservatives and Tea Party activists, and Roger Ailes, who has run Fox News since its inception.
"We share a belief that the Holocaust, of course, can and should be discussed appropriately in the media. But that is not what we have seen at Fox News," the letter says.
Anger towards Fox among American Jews has been simmering for months, notably since last November when Mr Beck used his daily show to accuse George Soros, the financier and philanthropist, of trying to sabotage the dollar and subvert democracy. He also suggested that as a teenager in Hungary, Soros, who is Jewish, had mixed with anti-Semites and sympathised with the Nazis, even helping "send Jews to the death camps". These slurs were "completely unacceptable ", the rabbis wrote.
Mr Ailes is targeted not only as Mr Beck's boss, but also for calling executives at National Public Radio "Nazis" after they fired one of their on-air personalities, Juan Williams, last year for remarks he made about Muslims in America. Mr Williams is also a Fox contributor.
Mr Ailes defended Mr Beck in an interview late last year with the Daily Beast website, saying that the Soros controversy was being stirred up "by left-wing rabbis who basically don't think anybody can ever use the word Holocaust on the air."
In response, the rabbis' letter declares: "You diminish the memory and meaning of the Holocaust when you use it to discredit any individual or organisation you disagree with. That is what Fox News has done in recent weeks, and it is not only 'left-wing rabbis' who think so."
Yesterday's letter was the most recent skirmish in a long-running war between Mr Soros and Mr Murdoch. Last year the philanthropist gave money to Media Matters, a group dedicated to exposing political bias and false reporting by Fox News. He made the donation, he said, "in view of recent evidence suggesting that the incendiary rhetoric of Fox News hosts may incite violence".
The rabbis called on Fox "to meet the standard it has set for itself: 'to exercise the ultimate sensitivity when referencing the Holocaust'". They added: "We respectfully request that Glenn Beck be sanctioned by Fox News for his completely unacceptable attacks on a survivor of the Holocaust and [that] Roger Ailes apologise for his dismissive remarks about rabbis' sensitivity to how the Holocaust is used on the air."