Jason Lewis, the Republican contender for Tina Smith's (D-MN) Senate seat who has a history of making anti-Semitic remarks, has stooped to a new low with a campaign ad comparing "leftists" to Nazis.
In the ad, a leather-jacket-clad Lewis — wielding a handgun — intones that "first the radical left came for the Republicans like me."
His spouse, a retired St. Paul, Minnesota, police officer, chimes in.
"Then the radical left came after police officers like me," Leigh Lewis said.
In the same vein, Jason Lewis warns viewers, "Next, they're coming after you."
He goes on to say that "we live in dangerous times," with accompanying footage of burning cities, and that he will always "defend the police and your Second Amendment right to defend your family."
At the end of the campaign ad, he fires three rounds downrange at a shooting target.
The ad is a seemingly deliberate homage to the famous post-World-War-II words of German Lutheran pastor Martin Niemoller about the Nazi rise to power.
Niemoller, who initially embraced the rise of the Third Reich, soon came to recognize it as evil and stridently opposed it. He is perhaps best known for these words about speaking up in the face of oppression and injustice perpetrated by the Nazi regime:
First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out, because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me.
Lewis, by invoking this passage in a campaign ad, makes a direct comparison of "radical leftists" to Nazis. He also implies that Republicans suffer the same plight of Jews during the Holocaust.
The campaign ad is made more troubling since Lewis, a fervid Donald Trump supporter, has a long-standing history of anti-Semitic remarks.
He has suggested in the past that the Republican Party is controlled by a powerful "American Jewish lobby," and accused American Jews of having "dual loyalties."
"('The Jewish lobby') ... do control ... the Republican Party right now," he said back in his days as a radio pundit in Feb. 2013. "A blind loyalty toward Israel is the linchpin of being a good Republican. And when you get these sort of dual loyalties, what happens if it's not in America's best interest?"
He added that while he didn't think America was controlled by a "Jewish cabal" and wasn't propagating the "Jewish banker theory," the Republican Party is "unduly influenced by AIPAC and the Israeli lobby."
Lewis complained that prominent Republicans, such as former ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton, viewed Israel as "the 51st state."
"(John Bolton is) a dual citizen for instance of Israel and America," Lewis added later. "There's no question that ... during the Bush years ... there were a number of dual citizens, citizens of Israel, citizens of America who were making policy."
He reiterated that a "very, very strong American Jewish lobby" controls Republican interests in Washington.
"I don't say that as a negative," Lewis said. "I mean, I think they'd been very proficient and they're successful people and therefore they've got power in Washington."
He again protested that he was not being anti-Semitic.
"I don't think the Jewish lobby, the Israeli lobby controls America because there are plenty of opponents," Lewis said. "I do believe, as I said, they are controlling the Republican Party."
In 2019, his 2013 remarks were widely reported.
Lewis told CNN that accusations of his anti-Semitism stemmed from "pawns in the partisan media," and called the criticisms "pathetic."
"(It's) a worn-out playbook of attacking my 25-year career as a political commentator, which naturally meant asking rhetorical questions, challenging audiences, playing devil's advocate, and seeing both sides of every issue," he defended himself.
The Anti-Defamation League swiftly rebuked Lewis on social media.
"Former Congressman Jason Lewis has a disturbing history of making charges of dual loyalty, an #antiSemitic trope that's been used to ostracize Jews for centuries," the ADL wrote in a tweet. "Rather than apologize, he used the Jewish people to deflect. He should apologize immediately."
Lewis is currently locked in a heated battle for the Senate with Democratic incumbent Sen. Tina Smith, with some commentators now calling the race a statistical tie.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.