Column: A day of atonement - California congressman apologizes to Jewish congregants for Nazi remark




  • In Politics
  • 2022-10-07 12:00:07Z
  • By LA Times
Rep. Mike Garcia apologized this week to Jewish congregants in Santa Clarita after comparing the Biden administration to Hitler
Rep. Mike Garcia apologized this week to Jewish congregants in Santa Clarita after comparing the Biden administration to Hitler's Third Reich. \"It was a foolish comment,\" he said. (Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)  

When it comes to defending former President Trump, there's no end of awful and obnoxious things his supporters will say and do.

Whether ignoring his admitted sexual predations (see "Access Hollywood") or rioting at the Capitol to reverse the 2020 election (which Trump lost handily), there is apparently no bar too low for some of his slithering sycophants.

A particularly insidious trope is the invocation of Nazis and Nazi imagery, which is not only wildly off base, but gravely offensive to Holocaust survivors and their descendants. Florida Sen. Rick Scott and Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert have compared the FBI to Adolf Hitler's secret police, the Gestapo. Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar called agents brownshirts, a reference to Nazi storm troopers.

One offender this week did something most un-Trump like: He apologized, abjectly and unreservedly.

"I regret my comments. I deeply am apologetic for those comments," Rep. Mike Garcia told Jewish congregants at a Yom Kippur service in his northern Los Angeles County district.

Later the Santa Clarita Republican added, "The metaphor and the hyperbole was inexcusable. ... I do deeply regret the parallels that I made to the Third Reich."

Garcia, who is seeking reelection in one of the country's hardest-fought congressional races, had likened the Biden administration to the Nazi regime during an August interview on a conservative podcast.

Referring to the FBI search for classified documents at Trump's Florida residence, Garcia accused the Biden administration and what he called the "deep state" of "weaponizing federal agencies" for political purposes.

"This is literally tyranny of a majority right now that is acting more like a Third Reich than they are the United States. And this is very dangerous," Garcia said.

A cynic - don't look at me - would say his apology Tuesday night at Santa Clarita's Temple Beth Ami, on the Jewish day of atonement, no less, was purely political.

However, there were no media cameras. His campaign gave reporters no advance notice, issued no news release afterward and even declined to respond when asked Thursday for comment.

Rabbi Mark Blazer, who introduced Garcia to the congregation, posted a video of the congressman's appearance on the temple's Facebook page, but decided against seeking further publicity. "I wanted the reaction and interaction to be genuine," he said, "and not something that was scripted and planned."

Blazer said he had heard from congregants immediately after The Times published an account of Garcia's remarks. He texted the congressman to express his unhappiness and heard back the same day. Garcia apologized, Blazer said, and stated, "'I'm disappointed in myself. I shouldn't have done it.'"

The rabbi told Garcia he needed to do more than just apologize to Blazer.

"He had to make the apology to our community," Blazer said. "He had to specifically address the fact this is not acceptable, and not even acceptable with his track record of support for Israel, of support for the Jewish community."

There were about 200 worshipers present when Garcia stepped up Tuesday night to deliver his apology. It was the second he has issued, the congressman said, after saying he was sorry at a town hall last month at College of the Canyons.

"I was very clear that I regret what I said. It was a foolish comment," Garcia told worshipers.

"I don't take the experiences of the Holocaust and, obviously, what the Third Reich has done not only to our history, but the globe's history, lightly," Garcia said. "And so I am sorry. I do atone for the comment."

At one point, the congressman veered back into seeming fringe territory when he spoke of getting "emotional in the heat of the moment, when I started seeing our government behave and our government protect itself rather than protecting Americans."

"It was a reaction," he said of his Third Reich reference, "it was a visceral reaction."

He did not elaborate. But just to be clear, the FBI was acting on a court-approved search warrant for Trump's Florida resort after months of fruitless negotiation between government officials and attorneys for the ex-president, who improperly carted off hundreds of pages of classified documents.

Still, give credit where due. Garcia owned up to his ludicrous and boneheaded remark, apologized, and did so in a way that suggested his humility and sincerity.

Next he should apologize for undermining democracy in one of his first acts as a congressman, by voting to block the results of the 2020 presidential election.

And he shouldn't wait until next Yom Kippur to do so.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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