The backlash against Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee’s comments on the Iran nuclear deal continues to mount, but he is not backing down.
Over the weekend, the former Arkansas governor criticized President Obama’s agreement with Iran by evoking the death camps where Nazi Germany systematically murdered millions of Jews and others during World War II.
Huckabee said Obama was effectively marching Israelis to the “door of the oven.”
“This president’s foreign policy is the most feckless in American history,” he said to Breitbart News. “It is so naive that he would trust the Iranians. By doing so, he will take the Israelis and march them to the door of the oven.”
In an interview with Yahoo News Tuesday afternoon, Huckabee said he did not expect such a massive response to his words.
“There’s a boldness and a clarity to it,” he said to Yahoo News’ global anchor Katie Couric. “For those who thought I was saying this because I was looking for attention… you know Katie, the truth is I said it on a Saturday afternoon satellite radio show, so it wasn’t that I thought it was going to become the big issue of the week.”
Huckabee admitted that he has used the word “Holocaust” too liberally in the past, notably when discussing abortion, but feels it is appropriate in this instance because the Iranians are threatening “the murder of millions of Jews.”
“It was the Iranians that invoked the language – using the word ‘Holocaust’ – saying that we have developed missiles that will change Israel into a Holocaust,” Huckabee said.
Couric pointed out that many Jews, including Israelis, were not happy with his choice of words.
Ron Dermer, the Israeli ambassador to the U.S., who is lobbying Congress to oppose the deal, said Monday that he has a serious disagreement with the administration but does not think Huckabee’s rhetoric was appropriate.
“What I don’t doubt is the sincerity of the president or his team when they say they believe this deal not only makes America safe but makes Israel safe. Where we disagree is the judgment of actually what this deal is going to do,” Dermer said to USA Today. “We don’t in any way impugn the motives of the people who are doing this deal.”
Mike Huckabee recently evoked the Holocaust in reference to the Iran nuclear deal. (Photo: ABC News)
The Anti-Defamation League similarly characterized Huckabee’s comment as “completely out of line and unacceptable.”
Jonathan A. Greenblatt, the group’s national director, said Israeli military and security officials have repeatedly affirmed that Obama’s administration has been as strong as any other in protecting Israel’s security.
“To hear Mr. Huckabee invoke the Holocaust when America is Israel’s greatest ally and when Israel is a strong nation capable of defending itself is disheartening. The great tragedy of the Holocaust saw the Jews of Europe without allies and without power at the worst possible moment,” Greenblatt said in a statement.
Despite such criticisms, Huckabee claimed on the “Today” show Tuesday that the “response from Jewish people has been overwhelmingly positive.”
“We need to use strong words when people make strong threats against an entire group of people as the Iranians have made toward the Jews,” Huckabee added.
At a press conference in Ethiopia Monday, President Obama said Huckabee’s Holocaust comment was out of line but unfortunately not an anomaly in current political discourse.
“The particular comments of Mr. Huckabee are, I think, part of just a general pattern we’ve seen … that would be considered ridiculous if it weren’t so sad,” Obama said. “Maybe this is just an effort to push Mr. Trump out of the headlines, but it’s not the kind of leadership that’s needed for America right now.”
President Obama delivers a speech to the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. (Photo: Mulugeta Ayene/AP)
Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton said that she is disappointed and personally offended by the comments.
“I know Governor Huckabee. I have a cordial relationship with him. He served as the governor of Arkansas,” the former secretary of state said. “But I find this kind of inflammatory rhetoric totally unacceptable.”
Critics, she said, can reasonably disagree with particular details of the Iran deal, but Huckabee’s comments went too far.
“It should be repudiated by every person of good faith and concern about the necessity to keep our political dialogue on the facts and within suitable boundaries,” she added.
Far from apologizing, Huckabee doubled down on his World War II comparisons — filling his Twitter feed with attacks against Obama and Clinton.
“You finally come out of hiding to attack me for defending Israel? What’s ‘unacceptable’ is a mushroom cloud over Israel,” he tweeted to Clinton.
The 2016 hopeful asked how many murdered Israelis it would take for Clinton to express as much outrage at Iran as she did at his controversial comments.
“What’s ‘ridiculous and sad’ is that Obama and Clinton do not take seriously Iran’s threats to ‘wipe Israel off the map’ with a ‘big Holocaust,’” he said.
Mika Brzezinski, co-host of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” said that people who have been to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp would know how unacceptable his words are.
“It’s a deal breaker. It should be over for him. You don’t say that. And by the way, if you said it by mistake, that’s a sign of who you really are,” Brzezinski said.