Fox News could face legal action in Poland, and a potential fine of $100 million, for violating that nation’s new law on Holocaust memory on Tuesday by repeatedly referring to a Nazi concentration camp built during the wartime German occupation of Poland as a “Polish death camp.”
The broadcaster used the phrase in an on-screen graphic during at least two segments of its morning show “Fox and Friends,” on the deportation from New York City to Germany of Jakiw Palij, 95, a former guard at the Nazi slave labor camp in Trawniki, in occupied Poland. Palij, who immigrated to the United States in 1949, was stripped of his American citizenship in 2003.
The Polish Embassy in Washington, D.C., was watching, and quickly shared a screenshot of the offending graphic during an interview with Richard Grenell, the U.S. ambassador to Germany.
.@FoxNews we appreciate your reporting on yet another war time criminal rightfully being brought to justice. However please DO NOT mislead your viewers by rewriting history #Trawniki Labor Camp was a #GermanNazi camp in occupied Poland @briankilmeade @ainsleyearhardt @SteveDoocy pic.twitter.com/h97PiwzguY
— Embassy of Poland US (@PolishEmbassyUS) August 21, 2018
Fox News acknowledged the error online later on Tuesday, and the Polish Embassy said it was “pleased” with the response, but a spokesperson told The Intercept that diplomats were waiting for clarification from Warsaw about whether to take any legal action.
In a banner this morning we said the Nazi who was deported was a guard at a “Polish Death Camp.” The death camp was in German occupied Poland and not a “Polish Death Camp.”
— FOX & friends (@foxandfriends) August 21, 2018
Poland revised its anti-defamation law twice this year to ban the use of the phrase “Polish death camp” by anyone in any country, in an effort to shield Poles from blame for crimes against humanity committed during the Nazi occupation.
Under pressure from the United States and Israel, the Polish government agreed in June to remove clauses from the law which had made blaming Poles for the Holocaust a criminal offense punishable by up to three years in prison.
The law still permits civil suits, however, as the Yad Vashem Holocaust remembrance center in Jerusalem pointed out in dismay last month.
Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki also assured Polish lawmakers in June that offenders could still be held to account. “A publisher in the United States or in Germany will think twice before publishing today an article using the expression ‘Polish SS,’ ‘Polish Gestapo’ or ‘Polish concentration camps,’ if he risks a lawsuit and a fine of 100 million euro or dollars,” Morawiecki said then.
Fox was keen to promote the deportation of Palij as a triumph for U.S. President Donald Trump and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents who carried it out. In one headline, Fox News said the frail Palij — who was detained at his home in Queens and taken on a stretcher by air ambulance to Düsseldorf, Germany — had been “caught by ICE.”
Fox peppered its coverage with references to ICE, and featured pundits who accused Democrats who want to abolish the agency, which is responsible for numerous abuses, of somehow being soft on Nazi war criminals.
A federal immigration judge had ordered the deportation of Palij in 2004, but, until this week, American officials had been unable to convince any other country to take him, since he was born in what was once Poland but is now Ukraine and had served German occupation authorities without ever obtaining German citizenship.