Christian right leader sorry for comparing Emanuel to Mengele

Prominent figure in the Southern Baptist church apologizes for equating Zeke Emanuel with a Nazi doctor


Alex Koppelman
October 16, 2009 11:30PM (UTC)

Jewish groups like the Anti-Defamation League have been getting some criticism for not doing more to speak out against the comparisons some people are making between Obama administration figures and Nazis. In New York magazine, for instance, Peter Keating wrote an article asking why organizations like the ADL hadn't done more, or hadn't been more effective, in countering the suggestions, saying, "[I]njecting Hitler analogies into subjects like Medicare reimbursement rates renders the Holocaust mundane, as though Nazis simply supported big government, rather than genocide."

Seems like the ADL may have gotten the message.

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The first example in Keating's article was something that Richard Land, the president of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, said recently: "I want to put it to you bluntly. What they are attempting to do in health care, particularly in treating the elderly, is not something like what the Nazis did. It is precisely what the Nazis did." Land also said he was giving "the Dr. Jose Mengele Award" to Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, an oncologist and medical ethicist who's also the brother of White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel and an advisor to the White House on healthcare reform. (I've written before about the various falsehoods being spread about Emanuel; you can read that post here.)

As Keating pointed out, that comparison to the Nazis, and of Emanuel to Mengele, a man who doomed untold numbers to death and performed gruesome medical experiments on live victims, a man so cruel that even at Auschwitz he became known as the Angel of Death, drew no public response from "any major Jewish organization."

Well, apparently ADL national director Abraham Foxman wrote to Land on Oct. 9 about the latter's comments, and the two spoke by phone. Land has now written a letter of apology to Land in which he says:

It was never my intention to equate the Obama administration’s healthcare reform proposals with anything related to the Holocaust. My concern, which is clear when the remarks are reviewed in context, was about the potential denial of healthcare to the elderly, the infirm, the disabled and the unborn...

Now that I have had the opportunity to speak with you personally and reflect on my words, I deeply regret the reference to Dr. Josef Mengele. I was using hyperbole for effect and never intended to actually equate anyone in the Obama administration with Dr. Mengele. I will certainly refrain from making such references in the future. I apologize to everyone who found such references hurtful. Given the pain and suffering of so many Jewish and other victims of the Nazi regime, I will certainly seek to exercise far more care in my use of language in future discussions of the issues at stake in the healthcare debate.

(Hat tip to Ben Smith.)

Notably, of course, Land didn't apologize for the substance of his comments, and reiterated allegations about the Obama administration's proposals that are demonstrably false. And he doesn't seem to have apologized to Emanuel himself.


Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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