Poland Backs Down on Threat to Sue Journalist Over Holocaust Comments

Despite a statement that the Polish government had “prepared” a lawsuit against a prominent American broadcast journalist and media reports that it had been initiated, a spokesman told Hamodia that the filing of an actual suit was “unlikely.”

The matter began more than two weeks ago when NBC anchor Andrea Mitchell, reporting from a conference in Poland, said that Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto had rebelled against the “Polish and Nazi regime.” The Polish embassy objected to the conflation of the Nazi regime and occupied Poland, and asked for a clarification of the facts.

Mitchell posted an apology on social media, saying she “misspoke.”

“To be clear, the Polish government was not involved in these horrific acts. I apologize for the unfortunate inaccuracy,” she wrote.

The Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed satisfaction that diplomatic efforts elicited the apology. Yet the Polish Institute of National Remembrance and Commission for the Prosecution of Crimes against the Polish Nation (IPN) was not satisfied with the response and released a statement last week that they had “prepared a lawsuit by civil action” over Mitchell’s comment.

“They [IPN] felt the apology was not proportional to the damage that had been done on air,” Poland’s Consul to New York, Maciej Golubiewski, told Hamodia. “I think that, combined with the grievous and non-factual nature of the statement, IPN felt they had to react strongly.”

IPN, founded in 1998, is an affiliate of the Polish government charged with historical research and legal actions relating to periods of Nazi occupation and communist rule. The organization came increasingly into the international spotlight in the wake of the passage of a controversial law in 2017 that criminalized a vague swath of expressions that assigned blame for Nazi genocide to Poland.

Last year, an equally controversial agreement signed between Poland and the Israeli government dropped the threat of jail time and fines for such comments, but retained the possibility of civil prosecution.

A report by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency said IPN had filed the prepared lawsuit. Such a move would have been significant, as it would constitute the first time the law, which many feared would quash Holocaust scholarship, had been put into practice.

Consul General Golubiewski confirmed that the suit had indeed been prepared for Polish courts, but that it is “unlikely” to be filed.

“Nobody ever said that it had been sent, and I think that after a period of deliberation over what is the most efficient way to deal with the matter, it is unlikely that it will actually be filed,” he said.

A spokesman for NBC declined a request for comment on the matter from Hamodia.