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CNN’s Amanpour apologizes for ‘juxtaposing’ Trump with Nazi crimes

After comparison sparks uproar, anchor recognizes Hitler’s actions ‘stand alone’ in history, says she was just trying to ‘show how democracy can potentially slip away’

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US correspondent based in New York

Christiane Amanpour participates in the "Amanpour and Co." panel during the TCA Summer Press Tour on July 30, 2018, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)
Christiane Amanpour participates in the "Amanpour and Co." panel during the TCA Summer Press Tour on July 30, 2018, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)

NEW YORK — CNN anchor Christiane Amanpour apologized during her show Monday for comments she made last week comparing the actions of US President Donald Trump to the Kristallnacht Nazi pogroms.

“I observed the 82nd anniversary of Kristallnacht, as I often do. It is the event that began the horrors of the Holocaust. I also noted President Trump’s attacks on history, facts, knowledge, and truth,” Amanpour said, reflecting on the comparison she had made during her previous show on Thursday that sparked uproar in Israel and from Jewish groups in the US.

“I should not have juxtaposed the two thoughts. Hitler and his evils stand alone, of course, in history,” she continued. “I regret any pain my statement may have caused.”

“My point was to say how democracy can potentially slip away, and how we must always zealously guard our democratic values,” Amanpour added.

In the introduction to CNN’s flagship foreign affairs program on Thursday, she had invoked the anniversary of Kristallnacht in discussing Trump’s dishonesty, calling the November 9, 1938, Nazi program an “attack on fact.”

”This week 82 years ago, Kristallnacht happened,” Amanpour said in the monologue. “It was the Nazis’ warning shot across the bow of our human civilization that led to genocide against a whole identity, and in that tower of burning books, it led to an attack on fact, knowledge, history and truth. After four years of a modern-day assault on those same values by Donald Trump, the Biden-Harris team pledges a return to norms, including the truth.”

Schoolchildren and others brought to watch the burning of synagogue furnishings on Kristallnacht in Mosbach, Germany, November 1938 (courtesy)

The anchor’s comments led Diaspora Affairs Minister Omer Yankelevich to send a letter to CNN president Jeffrey Zucker on Sunday, demanding Amanpour issue an “immediate and public apology” for the “unacceptable comparison.”

“We find hereby the false equivalence made between the actions of a sitting US president and the atrocities of the Kristallnacht pogroms which were carried out by the Nazis eighty-two years ago belittling of the immense tragedy of the Holocaust,” Yankelevich wrote.

Israel’s consul-general to Atlanta, Anat Sultan-Dadon, wrote a letter of her own to Richard Davis, CNN’s executive vice president of News Standards and Practices, expressing “dismay” over Amanpour’s comparison.

“The use of the 82nd anniversary of Kristallnacht by Amanpour for the purpose of this comparison is an affront to the memory of the Holocaust, those who perished and those who suffered through these unimaginable atrocities,” she wrote.

Comparisons between contemporary politics and Nazi Germany have been considered beyond the pale by Jewish groups. An advertisement released in September by the Jewish Democratic Council of America that drew parallels between the rise of fascism and the Trump presidency was swiftly condemned by the Anti-Defamation League. But both former ADL direct Abraham Foxman and Holocaust scholar Deborah Lipstadt said such comparisons are in fact apt.

Raphael Ahren and JTA contributed to this report.

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