Fox News star Greg Gutfeld, whose latest book debuted on Tuesday, is currently under fire over his recent observation that Jewish people “had to be useful” in order to survive concentration camps, prompting the Auschwitz Museum to rebuke his comments as an “oversimplification” of the Holocaust.
Fox News staffers and insiders also told The Daily Beast that it was a “disgusting thing” for the network’s resident “comedian” to say, adding that “at any other place, his career would be over.”
On top of that, the White House condemned the Gutfeld! host’s remarks as an “obscenity,” while the Anti-Defamation League said it was unclear if he was spewing “nonsense” or arguing a “well-documented” point.
In recent days, several Fox News personalities—including Gutfeld’s new primetime colleague Jesse Watters—have rushed to defend Florida’s new and controversial education curriculum, which teaches children that slavery helped Black people develop skills, thus providing them a “personal benefit.” Amid widespread criticism over the “anti-woke” lesson plans, meanwhile, Florida governor and GOP presidential candidate Ron DeSantis has doubled down, while suggesting slavery was a beneficial experience for some slaves.
During Monday’s broadcast of Fox News’ The Five, which both Watters and Gutfeld co-host, the panel raged against Vice President Kamala Harris’ condemnation of the Florida curriculum as racist. Watters, for instance, blasted the veep for not wanting “African-Americans and white Americans to know that Black Americans did learn skills despite being enslaved.”
The heated discussion, however, took an uncomfortable turn when lone liberal panelist Jessica Tarlov drew a parallel between slavery and the Holocaust, wondering if Florida schools would also teach that Jewish people received some benefits from the Nazis systematically murdering them in death camps.
Gutfeld, referencing a famous book by Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl, took Tarlov’s challenge and ran with it.
“Did you ever read Man’s Search for Meaning?” Gutfeld wondered. “Vik Frankl talks about how you had to survive in a concentration camp by having skills. You had to be useful. Utility! Utility kept you alive!”
A clip of Gutfeld’s remarks soon went viral on social media, sparking immediate backlash from media observers and journalists who felt that the acerbic Fox host had crossed the line, even for the right-wing network.
Gutfeld’s comments have not been well received by some at the conservative cable giant, which has long dealt with inflammatory rhetoric from its hosts and commentators that has sometimes been criticized as antisemitic. In fact, the ADL has repeatedly condemned the network for giving oxygen to “racist” and “fringe” commentary, such as the white supremacist “Great Replacement” theory.
“Obviously, it is a disgusting thing to say, same with Jesse’s remarks on the matter,” one Fox News producer said. “Just generally speaking, I’m amazed that FOX has any ability to retain employees from multicultural backgrounds. Our workplace is shockingly diverse given the vitriol that often makes it to the air. Understand that they’re likely here for the same reasons I am, these jobs are scarce, but I can’t help but feel awful for them because they undoubtedly see this nonsense and can’t do anything to stop it.”
Another reporter merely told The Daily Beast “yikes” when asked to react to Gutfeld’s remarks, while a network insider suggested there was a “lot of internal worry” about the host’s latest controversy, especially since he just recently made the move to primetime.
“At any other place, his career would be over,” the insider added.
Outside the walls of the conservative media giant, the comments weren’t much better received.
“Everyone else at Fox fine with Gutfeld suggesting Jews sent to concentration camps could survive ‘by being useful?’ How can any of his fellow panelists show up tomorrow to sit there next to him?” neo-conservative pundit Bill Kristol, who is Jewish, rhetorically asked on Monday night.
Trump impeachment whistleblower Alexander Vindman, who is also Jewish, was far more blunt than Kristol.
“This fucking imbecile @greggutfeld is beyond absurd. He argues that Jews honed skills in the Holocaust that allowed some to survive,” he wrote on Monday night. “More than SIX MILLION men, women, & children died because they weren’t useful enough. @FoxNews is complicit in this hateful tirade. #NeverAgain.”
Media Matters senior writer Eric Kleefeld, meanwhile, claimed that Gutfeld had “unironically” extolled the value of the infamous phrase “Arbeit macht frei,” which hung above the entrance of the brutal Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz.
It didn’t take long for the Auschwitz Museum to weigh in on Gutfeld’s remarks, pointing out that the self-described “King of Late Night” didn’t seem to have a full grasp on the horrors of the Holocaust.
“While it is true that some Jews may have used their skills or usefulness to increase their chances of survival during the Holocaust, it is essential to contextualize this statement properly and understand that it does not represent the complex history of the genocide perpetrated by Nazi Germany,” the museum wrote in a lengthy statement.
“Viktor Frankl's observation about the specific situation in Auschwitz, which at some point became a camp that connected the functions of a concentration camp and extermination center and where deported Jews went through the selection process, highlights how some Jews became registered prisoners and might have used their skills to gain favor or prolong their lives in that particular setting,” the statement added. “Yet, it never gave them complete protection.”
Noting that “were no selections in extermination camps” and “being useful did not offer protection” during the final stages of the Holocaust, the museum took Gutfeld to task for oversimplifying the horrific episode of history.
“Therefore, while it is accurate to acknowledge that some Jews may have survived temporarily due to their perceived usefulness, it is crucial to remember that the Holocaust was a systematic genocide with the ultimate aim of exterminating the entire Jewish population,” the statement concluded. “It would be more appropriate to say that some Jews survived the Holocaust because they were considered temporarily useful, and the circumstances of the Nazi regime's collapse prevented their murder. We should avoid such oversimplifications in talking about this complex tragic story.”
A spokesperson for the ADL, additionally, noted that while it wasn’t exactly clear what Gutfeld was actually suggesting on Monday, it seemed apparent that he didn’t have a full grasp of the facts.
“It is not clear from Gutfeld’s comments if he is arguing that Jews learned skills in the Holocaust, or that Jews who had skills had a better chance of staying alive. The latter is something that is well-documented, while the former is nonsense. That said, many millions of Jews, who, in Gutfeld’s words, had “utility,” were still murdered,” the spokesperson told The Daily Beast.
“Moreover, the main argument in Frankl’s book was more about how those who had something to live for–a relative they wanted to be with, a book they wanted to write, research they were in the middle of, etc.–had a better mental chance of surviving because it motivated them not to give up,” he added.
Fox News has not responded to a request for comment.
The White House, for its part, took issue with Fox News for not speaking out about Gutfeld’s remarks.
“What Fox News allowed to be said on their air yesterday—and has so far failed to condemn—is an obscenity,” deputy White House press secretary Andrew Bates told CNN.
“In defending a horrid, dangerous, extreme lie that insults the memory of the millions of Americans who suffered from the evil of enslavement, a Fox News host told another horrid, dangerous, and extreme lie that insults the memory of the millions of people who suffered from the evils of the Holocaust,” he added.
“Let’s get something straight that the American people understand full well and that is not complicated: there was nothing good about slavery; there was nothing good about the Holocaust. Full stop,” Bates concluded. “Americans deserve to be brought together, not torn apart with poison. And they deserve the truth and the freedom to learn, not book bans and lies.”
While Gutfeld has relished taking on the role of Fox News’ “edgy” provocateur who is unafraid to take contrarian positions, such as defending Donald Trump’s “both sides” equivocation after the Charlottesville riots, he also has blasted others for invoking the Holocaust in “offensive” ways.
During a 2015 Fox News segment, Gutfeld lashed out at actress Shirley MacLaine for suggesting in her memoir that Holocaust victims could have been “balancing their karma from ages before” due to the possibility that they were previously Roman soldiers or crusaders in another life.
“That’s not just offensive but an example of imposter intelligence, for intellect without boundaries is mere stupidity,” he exclaimed, adding, “Shirley wasn't in a concentration camp, allowing her to use their hell for fun and profit.”
Gutfeld concluded: “Did Shirley write this awful book as punishment for her being a horrible creep in a previous life? No, because she's a horrible creep in her present life.”