A Night at the Garden, an Academy Award nominee for best documentary short, depicts a Nazi rally at New York City’s Madison Square Garden. And though amid our nation’s current, unsettling revival of white supremacy you would be forgiven for thinking this footage was from some recent gathering, this event was held in 1939 and was attended by 22,000 American Nazis, just two years before Germany declared war on the United States.
A 30-second ad for the movie called “It Can Happen Here” was supposed to air during Sean Hannity’s show. Its intended target were the conservative viewers of Hannity’s program, who were going to see a spot that warned about the ease with which America could slide into violent fascism under President Donald Trump, who has famously referred to the neo-Nazis who mobbed Charlottesville as “very fine people.” It’s a teaser for a possible future via a trailer from the past.
But Fox News rejected the national ad buy after an ad sales representative and the network’s CEO decided it was “inappropriate,” according to The Hollywood Reporter.
The ad placement was originally just a local buy, intended to air during Monday night’s episode of Hannity. But the spot was bumped from primetime due to breaking news: Fox switched to coverage of President Trump’s rally in Texas. So, as THR reported, “The film’s distributor, Field of Vision, then decided to purchase a national spot on Hannity’s show, but was rebuffed by the network, which controls national advertising.”
A Fox News national ad sales representative told the distributor’s media-buying agency on Wednesday that CEO Suzanne Scott (“our CEO”) said the ad was “not appropriate for our air,” according to email correspondence viewed by THR.
The ad is going to air during Thursday night’s Hannity, but only in Los Angeles, to fulfill the initial local ad buy. And odds are good that if Fox had simply allowed the ad play nationally, it would have garnered far less attention than its receiving now. It’s all very Streisand Effect.
In a statement to THR, Marshall Curry, director and editor of A Night at the Garden, said, “The film shines a light on a time when thousands of Americans fell under the spell of a demagogue who attacked the press and scapegoated minorities using the symbols of American patriotism. It’s amazing to me that the CEO of Fox News would personally inject herself into a small ad buy just to make sure that Hannity viewers weren’t exposed to this chapter of American history.”
In a Q&A on the movie’s official website, Marshall elaborated on the threat he hoped his documentary would reveal to a modern audience.
“When the Nazis began killing American soldiers, we started erasing the fact that any Americans had ever shared their philosophy,” he said. “In the end, America pulled away from the cliff, but this rally is a reminder that things didn’t have to work out that way. If Roosevelt weren’t President, if Japan hadn’t attacked, is it possible we would have skated through without joining the war? And if Nazis hadn’t killed American soldiers, is it possible that their philosophy wouldn’t have become so taboo here?”