UPDATE: Ombudsman: Blade reference to Nazis “did not refer to Holocaust”Written by Kristen Criswell | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Criticism is being directed at a Dec. 27 Blade editorial, “Dissension in GOP,” which made reference to the “hijack” of the Dec. 21 Lucas County GOP central committee meeting and compared the event as one that makes “Images of Hitler’s Brown Shirts breaking up Communist political meetings in pre-World War II Germany dance in our heads.”
Members of national and local groups found the reference to the German Nazis disrespectful to Holocaust victims.
“Using Nazi associations in U.S. political discourse is inappropriate. It minimizes the evils of Nazism, disrespects the memory of the victims of Nazi Germany — the six million Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust and the millions of other who perished under Nazi persecution — and it does not help us understand the past or the present,” said Andy Hollinger, spokesperson for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
Nina Sundell, regional director for Ohio, Kentucky and Allegheny region of the Anti-Defamation League, an agency working to stop the defamation of Jewish people, said referencing the Nazis “undermines the historical truth of the holocaust.” The reference adds nothing to the political debate, she said.
No writer is credited for the editorial. The Blade listed its editorial board in its Dec. 27 issue as David Schutt, editorial director; and associate editors Rose Russell, Kendall Downs and Dan Simpson. John Block is The Blade’s publisher and editor in chief.
Jeff Simpson, who claims he was chosen by vote Dec. 21 to replace Jon Stainbrook as Lucas County GOP chairman, said the reference is unfortunate.
“It’s a shame that the word Nazi is used to discredit people politically. It’s used to get away from the real issue. Bush was called a Nazi for invading Iraq. Obama is a Nazi for his stance on health care. Referencing Nazis doesn’t bring anything to the table; it’s no longer about the issue then, it’s about name calling,” Simpson said.
Paul Hoag, who was chosen as central committee chair, was surprised by the reference.
“I was shocked and extremely disappointed in them. What can you say when it’s fair political dissent and you’re being compared to Nazis? It’s off the wall,” Hoag said.
Hoag said that the ‘coup’ was never a personal attack against Stainbrook. The event was about changing leadership to represent a different “philosophical and conservative view.”
Lynn Olman, member of the board of elections and Lucas County GOP central committee, was named throughout the editorial. Olman was upset with the Nazi reference and what he described as a “continuation of incorrect facts.”
“I think that is one of the most outrageous comments I have heard in my life. I think it is the lowest, most inaccurate piece of journalism I’ve read in my entire life,” Olman said. “The inaccuracies are glaring and they know they are inaccurate yet they continue to publish it.”
Chris Myers, a central committee member present at the Dec. 21 meeting where the disputed vote took place, thought the editorial was inaccurate and “inflammatory.”
“It couldn’t be anything further from the truth. The reference to Nazis says more about the writer and their impressions of the meeting then actually what happened,” Myers said. “When I read it the first thing that came to my mind was Godwin’s Rule: The first person to bring up Nazis has nothing further to say in an argument.”
The editorial is protected under the First Amendment, said Chris Link, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio.
“Free speech, especially in the political realm, should be covered by a very big blanket,” Link said. “We don’t see protecting the rights of minorities as limiting speech.”
Jack Lessenberry, The Blade ombudsman, replied in an e-mail, “My comment is that the only thing that is clear to me about this story is that [Toledo Free Press Staff Writer] Kristen Rapin knows nothing about history. The Blade editorial did not refer to the Holocaust. It referred to what Nazi street gangs did to Communist and SPD activists in Germany in the last years of the Weimar Republic. Granted, I have a master’s degree in Eastern European history, speak German and Russian and have reported from Berlin. But she has an obligation to get the facts right.
“Incidentally, the love of my life is Jewish, and was the education director of her temple, and the Block family was originally Jewish, so any accusations of insensitively to the Holocaust are patently ridiculous.”
Members of The Blade editorial department were reached but no comment was made.
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