WASHINGTON (JTA) — A Holocaust survivors’ umbrella group and a Republican leader rebuked a GOP congressional candidate for participating in Nazi re-enactments.
Rich Iott, a Toledo-area, Tea Party-backed candidate who is challenging incumbent Democrat Marcy Kaptur, belonged to Wiking from 2003 to 2007, The Atlantic reported last Friday. The group staged full-dress re-enactments of Nazi SS maneuvers.
The American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants said in a statement Sunday that donning the SS uniform was "profoundly disgraceful" and that Iott’s failure to apologize "desecrates the memory of all victims of the Nazis, Jew and non-Jew."
In an appearance on Fox News Sunday, Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the minority whip in the U.S. House of Representatives, said he would "absolutely repudiate that" when he was challenged on the issue by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), a majority deputy whip. Cantor and Wasserman Schultz are Jewish.
The National Republican Congressional Committee removed Iott from a preferred list of candidates on its website and the Republican Jewish Coalition said Iott was unfit for office.
"Rich Iott’s initial statement after the story about his Nazi-focused historical reenactments broke showed that he clearly lacks the judgment we should expect of lawmakers," RJC director Matt Brooks said in a statement.
In a statement on his website, Iott said he enjoyed a broad range of re-enactments, including playing U.S. soldiers from World War I and II.
"Never, in any of my re-enacting of military history, have I meant any disrespect to anyone who served in our military or anyone who has been affected by the tragedy of war, especially the Jewish community," Iott said.
He would not apologize, instead blaming Kaptur for the revelations without showing evidence that her campaign had leaked the information.