I always look forward to Mike Papantonio's appearances on radio, since he invariably says something that leaves me shaking my head in bemusement and pity.
Papantonio, an attorney and co-host of the "Ring of Fire" radio show, was guest hosting on Ed Schultz's radio program Friday and talking about the legal challenge to the Voting Rights Act of 1965 before the Supreme Court. (audio clips after page break)
Not surprisingly, Papantonio turned most of his scorn toward remarks by Justice Antonin Scalia that indefinite continuation of the law amounts to "perpetuation of racial entitlement." Papantonio lashed out with a dubious claim about Scalia's grandfather (h/t for audio, Brian Maloney at mrctv.org) --
Let me just tell you something, you go back and look at the history of Scalia. This guy's grandfather was head of the New York Fascist Party, I'm not making that, head of the New York Fascist Party. And I gotta tell you something, the nut does not fall far from the tree.
Yes -- the "New York Fascist Party." Well, heck, everybody's heard of that, right?
Turns out Papantonio made a similar but significantly different claim in a column at Huffington Post three years ago. Here's what he wrote --
Alan Dershowitz wrote a book years ago where he pointed out that Supreme Court Judge Antonin Scalia's father was an active member of the American-Italian fascist party. In fact, Dershowitz points out that as a child, Scalia was placed in a military school where many children of the American-Italian fascist party were educated. Antonin obviously paid attention in class.
Father, grandfather, great-aunt, whatever. While young Scalia was "obviously paid attention in class" -- he was a brilliant student, not incidentally -- Papantonio is too lazy to recall his previous assertions that it was Scalia's father, not grandfather, who was active in the "American-Italian fascist party," not the "New York Fascist Party."
In his HuffPo posting, Papantonio also couldn't bring himself to the bare minimum required for substantiating such a claim, which would be citing the title of Dershowitz's book where the claim allegedly originated. Including the actual passage, assuming it even exists, would been helpful as well, though such an endeavor might have required several minutes of Papantonio's time. Perhaps this was not included because it was, uh, difficult to find.
Another odd thing about Papantonio's HuffPo posting -- comments were closed for it after all of three, count 'em, three comments, which might set a record for fewest ever at the site.
I contacted Dershowitz's office at Harvard Law School to see if he would substantiate or refute Papatonio's claims and, as I expected, Dershowitz declined. "He is not interested in responding to this," wrote Dershowitz assistant Sarah Neely.
This dubious claim about Scalia's fascist elder(s) does show up elsewhere online, on left-wing sites that parrot Papantonio word for word and also cite his attribution to Dershowitz.
In a two-part profile of Scalia nearly five years ago by "60 Minutes," no mention was made of the alleged fascism of Scalia's father, though presumably those producing the show would not shied from the claim if there was any evidence to back it up.
The allegation is rejected outright at wiki.answers.com, in response to the question, "Who is the US Supreme Court justice whose father was a founder of the American Fascist Party." Here's the answer provided at the site --
None of the Supreme Court justices, or their relatives, have been associated with fascism.
There is an indefensible rumor circulating on the Internet that Justice Antonin Scalia's father, S. Eugene Scalia, founded the American Fascist Party in 1934. Although we unintentionally helped perpetuate this misinformation, research indicates the rumor is false.
Salvatore Eugene Scalia was a first-generation Italian immigrant who obtained a Ph.D from Columbia University and taught romance languages at Brooklyn College. He translated a number of books from Italian to English, including Philip Mazzei's memoir, "My Life and Wanderings."
There is no evidence that Scalia's father even supported fascism, although that was a common allegation against Italians in the years between WWI and WWII.
Lawrence Dennis, an American diplomat and author, advocated fascism and talked of founding the "American Fascist Party" in the years following the Great Depression, but the group never materialized. Dennis and others were tried for sedition under the Smith Act in what became known as The Great Sedition Trial of 1944. The case ended in a mistrial when the judge died of a heart attack.
It appears the closest organization to an American fascist party was the German-American Bund, supporters of Nazi Germany.
Unfortunately for Papantonio, there is another figure from the 1930s who is remembered as overtly sympathetic toward fascism -- Joseph P. Kennedy -- grandfather (how about that) of his radio show co-host Robert Kennedy Jr.
Franklin Roovelt appointed Joseph Kennedy as ambassador to Great Britain in 1938, but the appointment was rocky from the start as Europe careened toward World War II. Two years later, after Kennedy's admiration for Nazi Germany had become widely known, he told a Boston newspaper that "democracy is finished in England" and America could be next. Kennedy was forced to resign within weeks. He disappeared from public view for the next 20 years, reappearing on the day after his then-eldest son won the presidency in 1960, having bankrolled the campaign.
Just as the Kennedy patriarch's appeasement was a frequent source of embarrassment to JFK after he entered politics in 1946, it would haunt him literally to the final moments of his life. One of the last things John Kennedy ever saw as his motorcade passed through Dealey Plaza was a man on the sidewalk holding an open black umbrella on that clear sunny day.
For years, the person remained unidentified and conspiracy theorists claimed he shook his umbrella just as Kennedy's limousine passed as a signal for gunmen to open fire on Kennedy.
The man finally came forward in 1978 after the government reopened its investigation into Kennedy's death. What he told the House Select Committee on Assassinations is described by "Six Seconds in Dallas" author Josiah Thompson in a video clip created by Errol Morris for the New York Times in November 2011, titled "The Umbrella Man" (audio) --
He explained then why he had opened the umbrella and was standing there that day. The open umbrella was a kind of protest, a visual protest. It wasn't a protest of any of John Kennedy's policies as president. It was a protest at the appeasement policies of Joseph P. Kennedy, John Kennedy's father, when he was ambassor to the Court of St. James in 1938 and '39. It was a reference to Neville Chamberlain's umbrella. I read that and I thought, this is just wacky enough, it has to be true. And I take it to be true.
This is not to suggest, however, that Joseph Kennedy ever led the "Massachusetts Fascist Party" or was an active member of the "Irish-American fascist party."