Ludeman, Waniewski support Iott in wake of ‘Nazi’ controversyWritten by Toledo Free Press Staff Writers | | email@example.com
Local political leaders are beginning to comment on the Rich Iott “Nazi” controversy.
“I personally know Rich and wife Chris, you will not find two nicer human beings. They are good people. I think this whole farce about pointing this out is sad on one big account,” said Tom Waniewski, Republican candidate for state senate and Toledo City councilman. “It really stymies good people, good business people, from in getting in the arena of public service. We have to elevate the culture of government to one of public service and not politics. What we’re seeing is the culture of politics. Rich is a good guy, how can anyone who is so capitalism driven, so American driven have an ounce of Nazism in him?”
Toledo City Councilman and Republican Rob Ludeman doesn’t condone Iott’s involvement in the Wiking group, but will still support him as a candidate.
“I think everybody does some things they regret this for Rich might be one. It’s not something I would have done. I also think the Democrats are going to grab at every straw they can to keep their seats in the house and this has become their issue,” Ludeman said. “I’m not going to abandon a candidate for one thing he did in life that I’m sure he regrets. I’m more focused on the issues — how his opponent voted in favor of the health care bill, that’s leading us to a more socialistic type of situation in the U.S. Rich would be better representative.”
Lucas County Republican party Chairman Jon Stainbrook released the following statement on Oct. 11: “In no way, shape, or form does the Lucas County Republican Party condone the exploits of the Nazis.
“This is nothing more than a political attack against a candidate that has run a strong campaign against a 28 year incumbent who has neglected her constituents.
“This is a perfect example of dirty mudslinging politics – when people take something and spin it into more than what it is.
“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 throw a press conference and help Kaptur campaign sling the mud.
“This is a common tactic used in politics when they try to split a candidate away from their party.
“Rich Iott is still our candidate against Marcy Kaptur.
Lucas County Democratic Party Chairman Ron Rothenbuhler hosted a press conference with Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern to discuss Iott’s involvement in the Wiking group Oct 11.
“I’m not just criticizing Iott, I’m criticizing anyone who’d run for public office that would not share such an important issue with the public,” Rothenbuhler told Toledo Free Press. “I’d be unhappy if any candidate representing northern Ohio or the district, is acquainted with a position that veterans and others are concerned about.”
Rothenbuhler also challenges local Republicans and Republican candidates let the public know where they stand.
Photographs of Rich Iott, candidate for the 9th District of the House of Representatives, wearing a WWII German military uniform were released on HBO and The Atlantic on Oct. 8.
Joshua Green, a senior editor for The Atlantic appeared on HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher” where he reportedly shared the photographs on air. An article written by Green, where Iott confirms his participation in WWII military re-enactments was posted to The Atlantic just prior to the airing of Maher’s show.
Iott confirmed to Green his participation and denied the military re-enactments had any connection to “tenants of Nazism”, Iott is quoted as saying, “No, absolutely not,” he said. “In fact, there’s a disclaimer on the [Wiking] website. And you’ll find that on almost any reenactment website. It’s purely historical interest in World War II.”
The Blade reported Oct. 8 that Iott campaign spokesman Matthew Parker said that no Nazi salutes or swastikas were allowed as part of the re-enactments. “‘It absolutely had nothing to do with any kind of romanticizing of Nazis whatever,’ Mr. Parker said. He said use of the swastika and the Nazi salute were prohibited in the re-enactments.”
After the initial statement there would be no comment, Parker told Toledo Free Press, that he stands by his statements made to The Blade and there was no use of swastikas or the Nazi salute during the time Iott was involved in the group. Parker also stated that the group is nonpolitical and denounces Nazism and the KKK on its site.
Archives of the wiking.org website obtained by the Toledo Free Press do show swastikas were present on the website as far back as 2002 and there is at least one photo where a swastika was used during a military re-enactment. The 2008 version of the front page of the website shows a photo named “Camden group” that has a swastika used on a sign on the tent that a group of the Wiking members are posed in front of.
Alan Miltich, a member of the Wiking group stated by e-mail on Oct. 12 that his group did not consider the emblem to be a swastika, he stated they refer to it as a “Sonnenrad” based on a Nordic symbol “that represents the Sun that does not set when in the Arctic latitudes during the summer season.” Additional research into the symbol also lists it as a “pinwheel swastika.” Several organizations, such as the United Methodist Women, list the pinwheel swastika in their Symbols of Hate material.
The Wiking website describes the group as, “We portray combat assault engineers (Sturmpioniere) from the 5.SS Panzer Division “Wiking”, specifically of the SS-Pioniere Bataillon 5 (core Pioniere formation within “Wiking”), 2.Kompanie (armored/motorized).”
Iott joined the group in 2002, his rank was “SS-Kandidat” on the March 2002 archive of the Wiking website. Iott then appears to be listed on the group membership rolls as “Reinhard Pferdmann” from 2003 through 2008. The contact e-mail that is listed on the 2003 through 2008 membership roster for “Pferdmann,” is an e-mail address known to belong to Rich Iott. The most recent version of the website does not include Iott or Pferdmann on the membership rolls.
Iott’s campaign, initially gave no immediate comment about the situation. Fritz Wenzel, Iott’s campaign consultant said if the media would like to talk to Iott individuals can speak with him at the Oak Harbor Festival today.
“I’m not pulling him off his campaign schedule to answer media questions,” Wenzel said. “I’m not interrupting his day for one member of the media when he’s out meeting the public. He’s trying to win this seat and to answer the lies the Democrats are trying to perpetuate out there.”
A statement from the Kaptur for Congress campaign was received via e-mail after the initial posting of this story. Quotes attributed to Kaptur spokesman Steve Fought said, “Wiking members say they re-enact ‘to honor’ the Waffen SS soldiers. But honestly, who would honor such butchers? They fail to mention that the entire SS organization was declared a criminal organization by the Nuremberg war crimes tribunal.
“Wiking members say they ‘salute their (Waffen SS) courage and loyalty to put their lives on the line in defense of their native soil…’ It’s time for a fact check: the Waffen SS fought mainly on foreign soil, not native soil, and they committed atrocities against civilians throughout Europe and against American soldiers in Belgium.
“To perpetuate such a twisted and dangerous view of history is outrageous and indefensible,” said Fought.
As a second update, a media release was sent out via e-mail by the Iott campaign where they are blaming the Kaptur campaign. Quotes attributed to Iott said, “Anyone who knows me would tell you that I am a proud American who loves this country and loves Freedom and those who have died fighting to preserve it. The despicable accusations and distortions of the truth that have been leveled at me, sadly exemplify why people have lost faith in the political process and with the media as well.
“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. I have immense respect for veterans who served our country valiantly, particularly those who fought to rid the world of tyranny and aggression by relegating Nazism to the trash heap of history. In fact, my respect for the military and our veterans is one of the reasons I have actively studied military history throughout my life.
Iott re-stated what was reported in The Atlantic as far as his participation in other military re-enactments and that his joining of the Wiking group was a hobby that was a father and son bonding experience.
The release also urged Kapur to join him in, “condemning these blatant distortions and attacks and pledge to focus on the issues that Ohioans so desperately want Washington to address.”
As the fourth update, in a later phone conversation, Iott told the Toledo Free Press, “I’ve always had a lifelong interest in history. I’ve been involved in several re-enactings for the Civil War, WWI and WWII. With the information I originally gave the press, it showed pictures of all these different time periods with my son,” Iott said. “[Focusing on WWII is] kind of a cheap shot.”
Iott said he’s been involved in re-enactments since college and that it’s a great way to learn about history and teach others about history. He said he’s not currently involved in any re-enactment groups.
Iott is not concerned about the story affecting his chances to represent the region, he said.
“I think this is an attempt by my opponent to get away from the facts. It’s a character assassination. It didn’t work with Food Town and won’t work with this”
Iott said the campaigns need to focus on the issues including the $700 billion stimulus bill, cap and trade and health care.