Toronto Sun: Sorry About That Nazi Thing

As apologies go, this was a doozy.

The Toronto Sun published a retraction and apology last Saturday after its columnist Ezra Levant wrote that George Soros was a Nazi collaborator. The apology read:

The management of Sun Media wishes to state that there is no basis for the statements in the column and they should not have been made.

Sun Media, this newspaper and Ezra Levant retract the statements made in the column and unreservedly apologize to Mr. Soros for the distress and harm this column may have caused him.

We’re not typically one to rush to the defense of someone who has more than the means to defend himself—it was the threat of Soros-sized legal action that prompted the apology—but this slander is one that’s been disproven many times before. It’s re-airing again is unfortunate. (Full disclosure: Soros’s Open Society Institute is a CJR funder.)

Levant took aim at Soros after the billionaire’s activist group Avaaz launched a petition against Sun-owner Quebecor’s plan to buy a TV channel license and launch Sun TV News. (The future channel has already attracted the nickname “Fox News North.”) Avaaz’s argument against the move (and the argument of Canadian luminaries like Margaret Atwood) centers on the ties between Prime Minister Harper and proposed network head Kory Teneycke, the PM’s former spokesperson—who recently stepped down—as well as a desire to see “American-style hate media” kept south of the border.

Levant pilloried Hungarian-born Soros for sticking his nose in Canada’s affairs, but devoted most of his article (no longer available online, it seems) to dredging up the “Soros as Nazi collaborator” line, earlier advanced by Lyndon Larouche, Ann Coulter, and even Marty Peretz.

Levant takes us back to 1944—when the Nazis took control of Hungary and Soros was just fourteen. As the deportations began, Levant says, Soros’s father “bribed” a non-Jewish official at the agricultural ministry to take George with him, and, according to Levant’s telling, the teenaged Soros confiscated property from Jews with his new guardian.

Turning his attention back to the Quebecor deal, Levant asks, “Hasn’t Soros silenced enough voices in his life?”

Except, that’s not what happened. In their reporting on the story, Media Matters clears up the matter, quoting from former New York Times reporter Michael T. Kaufman’s Soros biography:

This is what actually happened. Shortly after George went to live with Baumbach, the man was assigned to take inventory on the vast estate of Mor Kornfeld, an extremely wealthy aristocrat of Jewish origin. The Kornfeld family had the wealth, wisdom, and connections to be able to leave some of its belongings behind in exchange for permission to make their way to Lisbon. Baumbach was ordered to go to the Kornfeld estate and inventory the artworks, furnishings, and other property. Rather than leave his “godson” behind in Budapest for three days, he took the boy with him. As Baumbach itemized the material, George walked around the grounds and spent time with Kornfeld’s staff. It was his first visit to such a mansion, and the first time he rode a horse. He collaborated with no one and he paid attention to what he understood to be his primary responsibility: making sure that no one doubted that he was Sandor Kiss.

Thus, the fourteen-year-old survived. It wouldn’t have been hard to fact-check.

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Joel Meares is a former CJR assistant editor.