Fox News star Greg Gutfeld has spent the past few days on social media defending his recent assertion that Jewish people “had to be useful” in order to survive Nazi concentration camps, an observation that was criticized by the Auschwitz Museum and condemned by the White House.
The acerbic primetime host has especially taken issue with a podcaster whose initial clip of his remarks went viral, claiming she “defamed” him and “falsely accused” him of bigotry. On top of that, he tweeted that he’ll continue to “punch back” against “smear merchants,” especially since the “lies were exploited by the White House.”
Gutfeld added: “I must not stop until that is rectified.”
Despite his seeming dedication to clearing up his name, which has consisted of dozens of social media posts since late last week, Gutfeld has curiously remained silent on Fox News airwaves about the controversy. Besides the fact that his remarks have not been addressed on air, the network itself has refused to comment on the matter.
So why hasn’t Gutfeld, who so frequently airs his grievances and feuds on television, vociferously pushed back on-air against the criticism like he has on Twitter? According to multiple sources familiar with the situation, Fox News management was unhappy with the virality and widespread media coverage of his remarks. The fact that Fox News—normally eager to issue defenses of its biggest stars’ remarks—has remained silent is telling, network insiders stressed to The Daily Beast. It would make sense that the network would not want Gutfeld to give the controversy any further oxygen on its airwaves—but online, all bets appear to be off.
The Gutfeld! star came under fire after last Monday’s broadcast of The Five, the popular Fox News panel show he also co-hosts. During a heated discussion about Florida’s controversial new school curriculum that teaches children that Black people received a “personal benefit” from slavery, liberal panelist Jessica Tarlov wondered if Florida schools would also teach that the Holocaust benefited Jewish people.
Gutfeld, who along with other Fox personalities has defended the Florida education plan, then took on Tarlov’s challenge by making a muddled reference to a famous book by Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl.
“Did you ever read Man’s Search for Meaning?” Gutfeld declared. “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!”
Outrage soon erupted after Juliet Jeske, a podcaster who runs the @DecodingFoxNews social-media accounts, shared a clip of Gutfeld’s remarks while claiming he “downplayed the horrors of the Holocaust.”
Media observers and journalists soon took issue with the self-described King of Late Night’s comments, noting that he had “unironically” extolled the notorious phrase “Arbeit macht frei,” which hung above the infamous Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz. In fact, the Auschwitz Museum issued a lengthy statement rebuking Gutfeld’s remarks as an “oversimplification” of the Nazis’ attempt to exterminate all Jewish people.
The Anti-Defamation League, which has repeatedly called out Fox News in the past for platforming antisemitic and racist commentary, said that while it wasn’t entirely clear what Gutfeld was trying to suggest, it went without saying that “many millions of Jews, who, in Gutfeld’s words, had “utility,” were still murdered.” The White House, meanwhile, pulled no punches in its criticism of Gutfeld and Fox News.
“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 said, adding: “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.”
On top of that, several Fox News staffers and insiders told The Daily Beast that Gutfeld’s remarks were “obviously disgusting” and that “at any other place, his career would be over.”
Since then, the conservative cable giant has not responded to any requests for comment on Gutfeld’s comments or the subsequent backlash over them. And while he stays quiet on-air, Gutfeld has gone scorched earth against Jeske on the social-media platform formerly known as Twitter.
Over the weekend, after Jeske tweeted that she had started receiving “hate mail” because of her posts about the Fox star, adding that the “type of people who defend antisemitism are a nasty lot,” prompting Gutfeld to pounce.
“Can you smell the regret? This, from a person whose life depends on egging mobs to harm those she envies,” he wrote. “Now she’s been exposed, and terrified. How do U know? Shes playing the victim. Ten to one she takes a break to spend more time with her cat.”
Jeske later noted that Gutfeld “never clarified his statement or even acknowledged it” on air, noting that he should “have no problem defending what he said” if he was just quoting Frankl’s book.
“Translation: if I falsely accuse someone of a horrible thing, it’s up to them to prove it wrong,” Gutfeld fired back on Sunday. “This odious thing spends her waking hours smearing people & says ‘oh if it’s false-they’ll deal’. I first diagnosed this engine of envy a decade ago. It’s to fill a hole in an empty life.”
Fox News’ resident “comedian” continued to lash out at Jeske over the next few days, expressing skepticism that she received a grant to research the conservative network while claiming she’s been “bitterly obsessed” with him for more than a year. He also demanded she apologize to him for supposedly mischaracterizing his remarks.
“She defamed me & knows this. now she’s trying to backtrack by blaming a grant. we see this. we know this to be true. she got away with it for awhile, but crossed a line. now: she can simply answer me on twitter, even apologize. her inflated degrees can’t protect her,” he tweeted, responding to a post in which Jeske discussed her Tow-Knight Center grant.
Gutfeld’s criticism of Jeske grew only more strident this week after she posted a video response to him.
“Now he might think that he’s being misunderstood, and that’s up to him. And I have no idea what he was thinking. He’s trying to sort of explain it, but he hasn’t explained it,” she said in the video. “He’s just attacked me personally. It’s not defamation because he said this into a camera. I did not alter the clip. I did not change the clip and I did not take it out of context.”
Jeske added: “So I just want to point out, and many others also pointed out, that when you say something like ‘that utility kept you alive,’ it implies that the people who died did not have utility. Those are your words. That’s how I interpreted it.”
According to Gutfeld, Jeske’s video was a “backtrack” and a “complete admission that she fucked up” because “she was caught she reading her thoughts, not my words.” He also made sure to mock her over her personal appearance, a Gutfeld specialty.
“[A]lso, we often dont get a chance to see internet trolls in their habitat. now u can: ‘cat lady with crazy eyes in a basement’ actually isn’t a stereotype. good for her!” Gutfeld wrote.
Besides retweeting racist cartoonist Scott Adams’ defenses of him and a Twitchy article boasting that “Greg Gutfeld NUKES harpy,” Gutfeld continued to rail against Jeske throughout the week. When she tweeted that she’d be away part of the day on Tuesday to attend a friend’s child’s birthday, he claimed this was the Twitter version of “stepping back to spend time with (someone else’s) family.” He then warned Jeske he’d still be “seeking justice for your libel” when she returned.
Eventually, in a tweet pinned to the top of his account, Gutfeld told his followers that he was essentially pushing back against Jeske for them while seemingly asking others to take up the fight. Furthermore, he said this campaign wouldn’t stop until he was vindicated.
“A note on sharing the risk: why do this? why punch back? Well if i dont, who will?” Gutfeld wrote on Tuesday. “When someone falsely smears me of racism, in a public space, I must fight back; because if i don’t – its that much easier for them to do it to you.”
He concluded: “Smear merchants must be held accountable, or they’ll do it to people who cant fight back. in my case, the lies were exploited by the White House. I must not stop until that is rectified. its in the dedication of my new book (the king of Late Night): you should always share the risk. For thats how you beat trolls and their canceling obsession. I’ll do it for you; you do it for me. Deal?”
His non-stop quest for rectification over allegations of bigotry, however, apparently has no place on Fox airwaves.