COPENHAGEN — Danes are used to hearing their country mentioned in international comparisons. On measures like maternal health, public trust and happiness, they are accustomed to appearing near the head of global league tables.
So when a Fox Business Network host warning of the dangers of socialism cited Denmark in the same breath as Venezuela, the response was swift and angry, and it started from the top.
“Denmark, like Venezuela, has stripped people of their opportunities,” the host, Trish Regan, argued on Sunday.
“Nobody is incentivized to do anything because they’re not going to be rewarded,” she said, making references to a 2013 New York Times article about moves to pare back the Danish welfare state.
Her segment attracted the attention of Denmark’s finance minister, Kristian Jensen, who tweeted that Ms. Regan should come to Denmark “if you dare be confronted with the facts.”
“Denmark ranks 12 in economic freedom, Venezuela ranks 179. It’s simply egregious,” Mr. Jensen, who is a lawmaker for a free-market party, said in an interview.
“It made me angry to see such an erroneous image of Denmark,” he said, adding: “Trish can think whatever she wants about Denmark, but on a factual basis.”
He found plenty of support among Danish Twitter users.
“You need a reality check about Denmark, check OECD where we outrank US,” said Haifaa Awad, a doctor and pundit who rarely finds herself in agreement with the Danish government.
In spite of the fierce pushback from the government and the public, Ms. Regan’s statement did evoke some agreement in Denmark. While the mention of Venezuela — which is suffering widespread starvation and hyperinflation — won her few friends, the argument that high taxes take a toll on enterprise was another matter.
Ms. Regan made an interesting case about the incentive structure of Danish society, said Anders Krab-Johansen, the publisher and chief executive of Berlingske Media, one of Denmark’s largest media groups.
“The reward of making an extra effort for oneself or for society is very diminished compared to other countries,” said Mr. Krab-Johansen, who attended college in the United States.
Following a Danish model in the United States, he added, would affect “what I think Americans like best about their country — the high level of individual freedom.”
On Wednesday, Ms. Regan returned briefly to the subject of Denmark on the air, to offer a clarification. “I was never implying that conditions in Denmark were similar in any way to the current tragedy on the ground there in Venezuela,” she said, adding that she had merely cited evidence to show that “socialism is not the way.”
That statement pleased the finance minister, who returned to Twitter to thank Danes who had objected to her earlier comments.
“That’s it! Thanks to all who helped put pressure on Trish and Fox to have them correct their claim,” he wrote, adding emojis of clapping hands.
Mr. Jensen said he was preparing to invite Ms. Regan to Denmark “to come and look for herself.”
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