Apologize, my mom told me.
When you hurt somebody’s feelings, she said, apologize, even if they misunderstood or even if you didn’t mean it the way they took it.
Say you’re sorry and move on.
And that is what I did when some folks took offense at my recent column that used a quote from Erik Larson’s In the Garden of the Beasts in which a spokesman tried to explain away violence of Nazi followers towards Jews.
But for my friends and readers who heard that I called somebody else a Nazi, I want to emphasize that is not what I did.
Others have explained it better than I could, including Gary Pearce and Carter Wrenn on their blog, talkingaboutpolitics.com, which is a unique source of political viewpoints because they represent polar opposite opinions. Gary has been Jim Hunt’s longtime political advisor, and Carter was a principal strategist for Jesse Helms. Both Gary and Carter are political geniuses.
They weighed in on the controversy about my column, Gary first:
“D.G. Martin riled up the Republican Party with a recent column.
State GOP Chair Claude Pope accused D.G. of comparing Republicans to Nazis. ‘Inexcusable, disgusting and shameful,’ Pope fumed. He called on UNC-TV to suspend D.G.’s show Book Watch, so as not to ‘damage the reputation of an otherwise upstanding organization.’
(Remind me: Wasn’t it just last year that Mitt Romney and the Republicans were demanding the de-funding of Big Bird?)
"Now, no one should ever compare anybody to Nazis. D.G. didn’t. Read his column.
And Pope’s outrage might look more genuine if so many members of his own party hadn’t so freely compared President Obama to Hitler and Obamacare to fascism.
This qualifies as crocodile tears.”
Carter followed with the following:
“All I can say about Gary’s column on D.G. Martin is — ‘Amen.’
"In the fourteen years I’ve known D.G., I’ve never heard him say an unkind word about anyone — so Claude Pope claiming he’d called Republicans Nazis just didn’t pass the smell test.
"Ole Claude, out of paranoia, foolishness, or a plain mean streak, indulged in a fact twist.
A political pundit had said Republicans “overreaching” in the legislature was natural for folks who’d been out of power for a long time, and D.G. pointed out that, in his book, In the Garden of the Beasts, Erik Larson reported Joseph Goebbels had used pretty much the same explanation for Nazi excesses back in the 1930’s.
"It’s a subtle but straightforward point: comparing the pundit’s explanation to what Goebbels said 80 years ago was not calling Republicans Nazis., but Claude wasn’t about to let anything as fragile as a fact stand in his way.
"Here’s my point: There’s not much difference between Rev. Barber twisting a fact so he can show Republicans are turning back the clock to the days of Jim Crow and Claude Pope twisting a fact so he can howl at D.G.”
You do not have to agree with Carter about William Barber to see the power of the analogy.
I am also grateful to others who understood the points I tried to make and expressed their support. Thomas Mills had read In the Garden of the Beasts and thought “about the parallels throughout this session of the legislature.”
My favorite came from Indy Weekly columnist Bob Geary, who made their “denouncement” of me as Number 1 in his Top Ten list of recent Republican mistakes.
All that said, I am still sorry. My apology stands, and I will continue to try to treat those who disagree with me with respect, just like my mom told me.
—D.G. Martin hosts UNC-TV’s North Carolina Bookwatch. For more information, see unctv.org/ncbookwatch.