John Raese, running for U.S. Senate as a Republican in West Virginia, compared a county smoking ban with Hitler forcing Jews to wear the Star of David at a recent Republican event, reports The Huff Post.
Speaking in Hurricane, W.Va., last Thursday at the Putnam CountyÂ Lincoln Day Dinner, Raese turned to Monongalia County’sÂ recently enacted smoking banÂ as an example of government overreach.
“I donâ€™t want government telling me what I can do and what I canâ€™t do because Iâ€™m an American.Â But in Monongalia County you canâ€™t smoke a cigarette, you canâ€™t smoke a cigar, you canâ€™t do anything,” Raese said.
“And I oppose that because I believe in everybodyâ€™s individual freedoms and everybodyâ€™s individual rights to do what they want to do and Iâ€™m a conservative and thatâ€™s the way that goes.”
“But in Monongalia County now, I have to put a huge sticker on my buildings to say this is a smoke free environment. This is brought to you by the government of Monongalia County. Ok?”
He added: “Remember Hitler used to put Star of David on everybodyâ€™s lapel, remember that? Same thing.â€ť
Later on in the same video, Raese calls President Franklin D. Roosevelt “General Roosevelt” and “Fidel Roosevelt.”
When asked by Politico about the Hitler analogy, Raese issued this statement. “No, this is not a standard line, nor a misstatement.Â It is a loss of freedom,” Raese said. “As Ronald Reagan once said, there is no such thing as partial freedom, there is only freedom.”
“These kinds of analogies to Nazi Germany are offensive and inappropriate,”Â Deborah Lauter, director of civil rights for the Anti-Defamation League, told the NY Daily News. “They’re out of bounds for everyone, including elected officials.”
Moreover, Thursday is Holocaust Remembrance Day, an international day that marks the anniversary of the Warsaw ghetto uprising. “We just hope that candidates use more common sense and can be more careful with their words,” added Lauter.
John Raese lost the 2010 special election to replace late Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) to then-Democratic Gov. Joe Manchin by ten points.
In the campaign, RaeseÂ proclaimedÂ that minimum wage laws should be repealed andÂ saidÂ the U.S. needed to put “1000 laser systems” in the sky to defend against a “rogue missile.”
Raese isÂ challenging Manchin again in 2012 in hisÂ fourth time running for U.S. Senate. Despite going for the Republican candidate in the presidential race since 2000, West Virginia has not elected a Republican to U.S. Senate since 1956.
The Monongalia County introduced smoking on March 9 of this year, prohibiting smoking in bars, restaurants and workplaces. Business owners and individuals who violate the ban will be fined.
With his comments Raese joins a long list of overreaching pols in both parties who have made similar comparisons. Among them:Â Gov. Jerry Brown,Â Sen. Richard Durbin,Â Rep. Steve Cohen andÂ Rep. Allen West.