A host of state and local Democratic officials yesterday strongly condemned 9th district congressional candidate Rich Iott for his participation in a World War II German SS re-enactment group.
Speaking at the Lucas County Democratic Party headquarters in downtown Toledo, Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern labelled Mr. Iott's actions "despicable" and called on local Republican leaders to withdraw support for Mr. Iott's candidacy.
"Shocking, I think is the best word used to describe it," Mr. Redfern stated, calling the controversy an embarrassment to northwest Ohio. "Voters should ask themselves, would you dress up as a Nazi? Would you accept your hometown mayor dressing up as a Nazi?"
He pointed to a new Web site — fightiott.com — set up by the Lucas County Democratic Party in response to the scandal.
Other Democratic officials also denounced Mr. Iott including State Sen. Teresa Fedor (D. Toledo), state Rep. Edna Brown (D., Toledo), Sylvania Township trustee Carol Contrada, and Toledo City Councilman Wilma Brown.
Mr. Iott dismissed the Democrats' statements as a political ploy aimed at damaging his reputation.
"This wasn't a story, this was a coordinated character assassination that had been carefully planned," Mr. Iott claimed.
He accused his opponent, U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo), and her fellow Democrats of trying to distract voters from more important topics.
"Here we are wasting time this close to the election, talking about something that has nothing to do with the big issues that face this country," Mr. Iott said. "We should be talking about where are the jobs. We should be talking about this health care bill that is going to bankrupt us. We should be talking about cap and trade… Why aren't we talking about this? Because my opponent is on the wrong side of every one of these issues."
Calling the Holocaust "absolutely one of the most unspeakable events in history," Mr. Iott was adamant that he does not sympathize with the Nazis. Instead, he said his involvement with the reenactment group was a way of educating people about history so that the mistakes of the past won't be repeated.
The controversy surrounding Mr. Iott's involvement in the reenactment group began after the Atlantic magazine published a story online last week that included pictures of the candidate in a Waffen SS uniform. The Monclova Township businessman said he has not been involved in the group for several years, and that he liked the organization because it paints an accurate picture of history for educational purposes.
However, Mr. Redfern referred to the group as having a "warped sense of history" and argued that dressing up as a Nazi cannot be compared with Civil War or other types of historical re-enactors.
Jon Stainbrook, chairman of the Lucas County GOP, echoed Mr. Iott in dismissing the Democrats' statements as a political attack.
"This is a perfect example of dirty, mud-slinging politics, when people take something and spin it into more than what it really is," Mr. Stainbrook asserted. "This is proof that Marcy is scared and vulnerable when the state Democratic Party chairman comes up to the most Democratic county in the state to give a press conference and help Kaptur's campaign sling mud."