Jason Smathers defends Holocaust-denial ad in University of Wisconsin campus newspaper


The Badger Herald's editor, Jason Smathers, said the ad was purchased by a holocaust denial organization apparently trying to capitalize on a debate going on in the comment sections below some recent news stories his site had published.

But Smathers said that, since the ad itself was a link, and didn't rise to the level of inciting violence, he let it run.

"After wrestling with the consequences of my actions and the principles on which this paper is based, I came to the conclusion that I cannot justify the removal of this ad," he said in an essay defending his action. He also provides a link to the history of Holocaust denial, and those who fight it.

"This newspaper has made a principle of accepting any individual or group advertisement submitted," Smathers wrote in Thursday's Badger Herald. "The only cases in which we would reject an advertisement are if it exhibits threats toward any person or group or is of a libelous nature. This advertisement, while certainly fueled by veiled anti-Semitism, does not rise to the level of threats and therefore does not merit rejection."

Rachel Racoosin, a UW student, thought Smathers missed the mark, and said so in a letter to the Daily Cardinal, another student daily:

As a student, a journalist, a storyteller and a proud Jew, I challenge our student newspapers to uphold their commitment and integrity as journalists--to always seek the truth and to always provide a fair and comprehensive account of events and issues. Allowing the Holocaust denial advertisements is completely at odds with these goals. I call upon both student publications to reflect, reconsider and remember the terrible lessons of the Holocaust. As well, I hope that in the future the staff at The Badger Herald and The Daily Cardinal will reflect, reconsider and remember the importance of ethics in journalism.

In its coverage of the story, the Wisconsin State Journal closed its comments section.