The Corner

Politics & Policy

The Deleterious Effects of Koch Addiction (UPDATED)

In response to I Was Right

Yesterday, I noted a new book that details how Fred C. Koch, father of the notorious Koch BrothersTM, helped construct an oil refinery in Hitler’s Germany, thus making his sons the legatees of filthy Nazi coin and probably Nazis themselves. Unsurprisingly, Hillary Clinton flunky David Brock is already running geo-targeted social-media ads featuring the news, and rest assured that Harry Reid is putting the final touch on his next Senate floor speech.

Except — it turns out there are a few small wrinkles.

Koch Industries president Dave Robertson issued a statement yesterday, offering additional details on Fred C. Koch’s supposed Nazi collaboration:

Between 1928 and 1934, Winkler-Koch Engineering handled more than 500 projects.  Of these, 39 involved signed contracts to build cracking units.  One of those units was included in a refinery in the port area of Hamburg, Germany, built for Foreign Oil Co. of Boston.  During this period, Winkler-Koch worked on hundreds of other international projects, including work in England, Scotland, France, Canada, Romania, the Soviet Union, Persia and India. Winkler-Koch also worked on similar projects throughout the United States, including in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Wyoming, Illinois and Ohio.

Winkler-Koch’s contract with Foreign Oil was signed on Sept. 8, 1933, and the refinery became operational March 23, 1935. That signing was nearly six years before Germany invaded Poland. 

In an email to the Times, Mayer dismissed the statement: “As the Kochs are confirming, Fred Koch was integrally involved in the creation of a German refinery that Adolf Hitler personally greenlighted. Splitting-hairs by disaggregating which parts of the equipment Fred Koch provided is a distraction. Without the cracking unit, which Fred Koch designed, there would be no refinery.”

But making one part of one refinery seven months into Hitler’s chancellorship is pretty important context. After all, if Fred Koch is a dishonorable goon, then so must be the ex-head honchos of Ford, General Motors, Coca-Cola, MGM Studios, and IBM, all of whom were in much deeper, and much longer, with the Third Reich than Papa Koch. And if Koch Industries is delegitimized by this single investment by its founder, how much more these other companies? Creed was a MGM movie. Presumably liberals will be calling on Sylvester Stallone to return his blood money?

As biographer Ira Stoll noted on Twitter, all of this context was absent from the Times’ initial coverage of Mayer’s new book — in the first of Nicholas Confessore’s two articles (in the second he paraphrases the Koch statement), and in the paper’s glowing review of Mayer’s book by David Nasaw.

Also strangely absent from these articles? Any disclosure that Jane Mayer just so happens to be the wife of Bill Hamilton, the New York Times’ Washington editor as of last September. In the spirit of transparency, that seems the sort of connection a respectable publication ought to note. I’ve contacted the New York Times for an explanation, but so far to no avail.

In sum, then, what we seem to have here is history written by an axe-grinding author, then publicized by an outlet that diligently hid its personal interest in the story.

And they wonder why people don’t trust the media.

Update: Eileen Murphy, from the Times’ communications office, emails:

We believe that authors should stand on their own and don’t think it’s necessary to disclose marital or family relations unless they have a direct bearing on a review. As is our common practice when there is a Times staff family connection to an author, this review was assigned to an outside writer.

Asked specifically about the lack of a disclosure in the Times’ news reports by Nick Confessore, she added:

These situations are handled on a case by case basis. In fact, editors did discuss whether a disclosure was warranted in this case and concluded that it was not.

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