Congressman hints at racist ‘dark side’ of GOP

By Nathalie Rothschild, April 26, 2012
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Eric Cantor

Eric Cantor

Recent comments by Eric Cantor, the sole Jewish Republican serving in the US Congress, have been widely interpreted as suggesting that the Grand Old Party has a serious problem with antisemitism.

Asked at an event organised by Politico, the political news outlet, whether or not he has detected antisemitism among members of Congress, Mr Cantor said he did not want to talk about "the darker side" of the party.

Pushed to elaborate, he said: "I think that all of us know that in this country, we've not always gotten it right in terms of racial matters, religious matters, whatever.

"We continue to strive to provide equal treatment to everybody. To sit here and say in America that we've got it all right now… I think that pretty much all of us can say that we've still got work to do."

The questioner, Politico's Mike Allen, pressed on: "We're talking about the House Republican Caucus, not America." Mr Cantor shrugged his shoulders, choosing to remain silent rather than deny that there is anti-Jewish sentiment in the Republican ranks.

The exchange followed Politico's recent report that Mr Cantor's animosity towards a veteran GOP representative, Don Manzullo, could be traced back to his years-old comment that Mr Cantor, an observant Jew, would not be "saved".

Last month, Mr Cantor helped rising Republican star Adam Kinzinger topple Mr Manzullo in an Illinois primary.

The National Jewish Democratic Council interpreted Mr Cantor's remarks at the Politico event as "an astonishing but brutally honest admission" about "the challenges of antisemitism and racism confronted within the House Republican caucus".

NJDC president and CEO David A Harris claimed that there are "deep-seated problems" with antisemitism within the GOP, including "widespread use of abusive Holocaust rhetoric".

West Virginia Republican Senate Candidate John Raese recently compared smoking restrictions to Nazi policies. He said "…in Monongalia County now, I have to put a huge sticker on my buildings to say this is a smoke-free environment… Hitler used to put Star of David on everybody's lapel… Same thing."

    Last updated: 2:38pm, April 26 2012