Tom Cruise Defends Daughter in What Is Shaping Up as Valkyrie II

This July will mark nearly 70 years since the aborted assassination attempt against Adolf Hitler, which was memorably re-imagined in the 2008 thriller, Valkyrie, starring Tom Cruise as Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, a righteous military man ashamed of the stain that the Nazis would forever leave on Germany.

Cruise apparently isn't finished seeking to vanquish Germany's Nazi past -- even if it's being done indirectly. He has filed a $50 million defamation lawsuit against the Bauer Media Group, a privately held empire that controls 600 print publications -- 300 websites, and 50 television and radio stations in 15 countries. Some of its websites traffic in pornography. Most of its publications are supermarket tabloids. And still others are seemingly dedicated to glorifying Germany's Nazi legacy.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the company existed during the Third Reich and openly embraced Hitler's regime. In 1985 one of its magazines published an essay supporting President Ronald Reagan's ill-advised visit to Bitburg, a German cemetery where Nazi officers were buried. That same essay invoked the by now familiar anti-Semitic canard of a "Jewish lobby" that controlled American foreign policy.

Cruise's interest as the plaintiff in this lawsuit, however, is not as a movie star with an anti-Nazi fixation, but rather as an indignantly angry father. And certainly on the surface, the case has little to do Bauer Media's apparent Nazi sympathies. The Germany of Valkyrie, the movie, may be projected in the background, but this case cuts much closer to Cruise's actual home--namely, his daughter, Suri--and two popular American tabloids, Life & Style and In Touch, both of which decided to make Suri a cover girl soon after Cruise became separated from his wife, the actress Katie Holmes. Life & Style and In Touch, both owned by Bauer Media, featured stories in July and October 2012, respectively, about the apparent impact the family separation had on Cruise and Holmes' daughter. Suri appeared on the covers of both magazines, looking forlorn, with headlines that read: "Abandoned By Daddy."

After each sensational, lurid headline, Cruise denied the story, insisted that he spoke with his daughter regularly -- even when shooting a film -- and visited with her, as well. Cruise asked Bauer Media to print a retraction, which it refused.

The lawsuit is presently in discovery, which should conclude by February 2014, with a trial date still yet unscheduled.

In the meantime, Abraham Foxman, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League, wrote a letter in February 2013 to Peter Ammon, Germany's Ambassador to the United States, asking about three of Bauer Media's German publications, specifically, Militar & Geschichte, Geschichte & Wissen, and Der Landser, which have all featured stories on such infamous Nazis and their enablers as Hermann Goring, Leni Riefenstahl, and Erich von Manstein, along with the Volkssturm.

In the United States, of course, with its expansive view of the First Amendment, there are few restrictions on magazines with poor taste. They are free to publish stories on despicable characters, and they can possess and publicize a warped sense of world history. Freedom of the press protects such activity, mindless and insensitive though it may be.

This is not necessarily true in Germany, however, which enacted strict postwar laws criminalizing the dissemination of Nazi propaganda. In America, in 1977, neo-Nazis were permitted to march through the Village of Skokie, Illinois, an enclave with a high density of Holocaust survivors, wearing swastikas and Nazi regalia and fully protected under the Constitution. In Germany, a parade of such pernicious symbols would have been met with a stiff jail sentence.

For this reason, Foxman wondered why no action had been taken in Germany against the publisher who was responsible for the content of these magazines. The German Embassy replied that it was monitoring the situation.

Perhaps it should come as no surprise that a publisher of supermarket tabloids, which primarily trade in gossip and titillation, also puts out magazines with a twisted conception of the Third Reich's involvement in World War II. Getting the facts right isn't necessarily Bauer Media's primary calling card.

Regardless of how this all plays out, the lesson seems obvious: Never mess with a divorced father when the family separation is fresh, his longing is great and, in this case, his pockets are especially deep. This is Tom Cruise, after all, for whom no mission is impossible, making the right moves never fails him, and his eyes in looking out for his daughter are very wide open. Bauer Media may be a vast conglomerate, but with such skeletons in its closet, exploiting Cruise's daughter may have been the riskiest business of all.