Raleigh, N.C. — The North Carolina Republican Party is calling on UNC-TV to break its ties with host and columnist D.G. Martin.
Martin is the longtime host of the popular "NC Bookwatch" program on the statewide public television station. He's also a longtime political columnist whose left-leaning columns appear weekly in publications around the state. The two are separate ventures.
In his most recent column, Martin seems to compare supporters of Republican legislative leaders to apologists for the recently ousted Egyptian government and for the Nazi regime in Germany.
The column in question is titled "Egypt, Nazi Germany, and North Carolina," datelined July 29.
"Similar explanations were made to explain away Nazi excesses when they took power in Germany in 1933 according to Erik Larson’s recent best seller, “In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin,” based on the experience of North Carolina native William E. Dodd, who was U.S. Ambassador to Germany during this period.
"According to Larson, when the new Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels faced questions about abuse against Jews, he told reporters, “Let me explain how such a thing might occasionally happen,” Goebbels said. “All during the twelve years of the Weimar Republic our people were virtually in jail. Now our party is in charge and they are free again. When a man has been in jail for twelve years and he is suddenly freed, in his joy he may do something irrational, perhaps even brutal. Is that not a possibility in your country also?
"In our state, too?"
In a news release Friday, GOP Chairman Claude Pope called Martin's comparison to Nazi apologists "inexcusable, disgusting and shameful" and called on UNC-TV to suspend its broadcasts of Martin's show, lest his comments "damage the reputation of an otherwise upstanding organization."
“It’s a shame that UNC-TV televises such a divisive, toxic personality with our taxpayer funds,” Pope is quoted in the release.
"We call on UNC-TV to suspend this program while they evaluate their relationship with their host who made such an outrageous and damaging comparison. Such divisive hyperbole only serves to confuse and trivialize issues that are important to North Carolinians, who all deserve a formal apology,” Pope said.
"The apology needs to be delivered from the author to the people of North Carolina," added NCGOP spokesman Mike Rusher.
Reached by phone, Martin said he understands the GOP's point.
"I'm very sorry that I offended some people, and I apologize. Period," Martin said.
UNC-TV Communications Director Steve Volstad released a statement late Friday, noting that Martin "has volunteered his time to host Bookwatch for more than 10 years."
"Mr. Martin wrote an opinion piece in his own personal capacity. It was not written on behalf of UNC-TV. Mr. Martin is not an employee of UNC-TV and he is not compensated by UNC-TV," Volstad said. "He has apologized for the comments for which he has been criticized."
This isn't the first time the public television station has been pulled into political battles. In 2011, UNC-TV was involved in a controversy that resulted in state lawmakers forcing the station to hand over a report on alleged contamination of state waters by aluminum company Alcoa.
The station has no stake in or responsibility for Martin's columns.