So Hank Williams, Jr., has lost his job singing Monday Night Football's intro song due to his bizarre comments on Fox & Friends criticizing the bipartisan golf match between President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, House Speaker John Boehner, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, and comparing the president to Adolf Hitler.
That Williams was critical of Obama should not be a surprise. Williams's lyrics have always been vaguely political and clearly southern. "I've always been against busing, 'cause busing ain't where it's at," Williams sang in his 1982 song "High and Pressurized." His 1988 song "If the South Woulda Won," about a Confederate victory in the Civil War became a top 10 hit. In recent years, though, Williams became more overtly political, appearing at Republican rallies and performing at an event at 2000's Republican National Convention.
But in stepping up his political rhetoric, Williams learned an unwritten rule in public speaking: comparisons to Hitler and Nazi Germany never work.
Which isn't to say that such comments always draw outrage. From January 20, 2001 to January 19, 2009—those would be the Bush years—the left was awash with celebrities comparing President George W. Bush to Hitler.
Comedian and actress Janeane Garofalo was a constant critic of Bush, once referring to the Bush administration as the "43rd Reich."
Actor David Clennon, of the television series The Agency and Ghost Whisperer, said, "I'm not comparing Bush to Adolf Hitler—because George Bush, for one thing, is not as smart as Adolf Hitler. And secondly George Bush has much more power than Adolf Hitler ever had."
Following the 2004 elections, singer Linda Ronstadt attacked not only Bush, but all newly-elected Republicans, saying, "Now we've got a new bunch of Hitlers."
Even universally beloved crooner Tony Bennett (full disclosure: I have tickets to see Bennett perform next week) has gotten into the act, blaming the United States for the attack on 9/11, telling Howard Stern last week, "But who are the terrorists? Are we the terrorists or are they the terrorists? ... They flew the plane in, but we caused it."
Bennett is currently selling a lot more records than Williams—his Duets II album is the No. 1 selling album in the nation—but Bennett's comments barely caused a ripple compared to Williams's equally bone-headed words.
Celebrity comparisons of Republicans and Hitler, however, are not merely limited to the occasional offhand hateful comment. Often these comparisons have been pre-planned multi-media attacks.
During 2004's Ozzfest tour, Black Sabbath's performance of the song "War Pigs" included an image of President Bush with a clown nose, appearing with a who's who of warmongers, including Hitler. While use of the images eventually stopped, an Ozzfest official at the time said that the images were not removed due to complaints, but because they "steered attention away from Black Sabbath's performance."
During the 2008 elections, Madonna used the appropriately-titled song "Get Stupid" to display images of Sen. John McCain alongside Hitler and Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe, while showing Obama alongside Mahatma Gandhi and John Lennon. And, far from receiving the same fate as Hank Williams, Jr., Madonna appears to be a shoo-in to perform at this season's Super Bowl.
Words and actions have consequences, Hank Williams, Jr., rightfully learned this week. Well, sometimes they have consequences.
"Talk about bad taste!" a theatergoer proclaims, while storming out of the fictitious "Springtime for Hitler" in Mel Brooks's The Producers; which serves as a good reminder: If any celebrity is going to revel in their own bad taste involving Hitler—let it be Mel Brooks. He's the only one who can get away with it.