Last night’s airing of MSNBC Reports was scheduled to include a debate segment between Lisa Lange, the Vice President of Communications with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and John Doyle, co-founder of the Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF). The debate, promoted on MSNBC’s website, was to focus on PETA’s offensive “Holocaust on Your Plate” promotion, which seeks to equate Jewish Holocaust victims with barnyard animals.

But if you tuned in to see MSNBC host Joe Scarborough at 10pm Eastern, you didn’t see the latest installment of CCF vs. PETA. Why? Because PETA backed out.

At around 4:30 yesterday afternoon, the show’s producer called to let us know that Ms. Lange refused to debate us on the subject. Pressed for a reason, he told us that the PETA spokesperson was worried the debate would turn into a discussion of PETA’s ties to terrorism.

So — let’s see if we have this straight. PETA is cheerfully lining up media opportunities to talk about a controversial promotion that has already been condemned by America’s leading Jewish cultural organizations. But it won’t discuss its equally controversial financial support of domestic terrorists in the Animal Liberation Front and the Earth Liberation Front?

We’re confident that PETA will manage to find a sympathetic media ear, some host or other who won’t challenge them on their history of cozying up to criminals. But the job of promoting “Holocaust on Your Plate” just got a bit more difficult. On Monday the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum issued a “cease and desist” order against PETA, demanding that the animal rights group “stop exploiting the Holocaust.”

It turns out that the photographs of emaciated Nazi death-camp prisoners included in PETA’s presentation came from the Museum’s collection. Use of these materials is governed by an agreement that allows Museum officials to “ensure that reproductions are used with respect and dignity.”

PETA, true to form, is defiantly ignoring the Museum’s lawyers, arguing that when the Museum defined its mission as fighting silence, indifference and apathy “in the face of others’ oppression,” it surely must have meant to include farm animals in its definition of “others.”

We’re confident that PETA will continue to display its callous insensitivity toward Holocaust survivors and the families of those who perished under Hitler (whose own vegetarianism, by the way, informed his peculiar “equal” treatment of humans and animals). But we offer this advice for the leaders of Jewish groups who may want to publicly challenge PETA’s tasteless tactics: if you have the opportunity to debate PETA about this atrocious campaign, keep your questions about their terrorist ties hidden until show time. Otherwise, they’ll turn tail and run.