Jewish groups across the country reacted to Mike Huckabee’s comments, in which the GOP presidential candidate this weekend likened the Iran deal to the Holocaust, with one organization saying the remarks “may be the most inexcusable we’ve encountered in recent memory.”
The former Arkansas governor has for months condemned the deal between Iran and world powers that will limit Tehran’s nuclear program for 10 years in exchange for fewer sanctions. Huckabee previously compared the deal to giving a pyromaniac 10 gallons of gasoline and matches.
Huckabee pushed the boundaries even further this weekend when he called the deal “idiotic” and said that President Barack Obama will ultimately “take the Israelis and march them to the door of the oven.”
The National Jewish Democratic Council immediately called on members of the Republican Party to denounce Huckabee’s comments, saying it is “not only disgustingly offensive to the President and the White House, but shows utter, callous disregard for the millions of lives lost in the Shoah and to the pain still felt by their descendants today.”
“It may be the most inexcusable we’ve encountered in recent memory,” the organization added in a statement.
The Anti-Defamation League, a group that fights antisemitism, said that while they are wary of the deal, Huckabee’s comments are “completely out of line and unacceptable.”
“To hear Mr. Huckabee invoke the Holocaust when America is Israel’s greatest ally and when Israel is a strong nation capable of defending itself is disheartening,” said Jonathan A. Greenblatt, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, in a statement.
This isn’t the first time the former Arkansas governor has cited the mass genocide of Jews by the Nazi regime: He previously said abortion was worse than the Holocaust.
Huckabee is a staunch supporter of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who condemned the deal and said it gave Iran a “sure path to nuclear weapons.” The presidential candidate has relentlessly slammed the agreement, and it was one of the big talking points of his presidential announcement.
The American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise (AICE) criticized Huckabee’s word choice, but said the threat of a nuclear weapon is real.
“His remark about marching the Israelis to the door of the oven was a poor choice of words but reflects his understanding that Iran has threatened to annihilate Israel and this deal could give them the means to carry out that threat,” the group’s executive director, Mitchell Bard, said in a statement to msnbc.
President of the Jewish American Society for Historic Preservation, Jerry Klinger, told msnbc that “if you take a historic view on Huckabee’s comments, he’s right.”
Acknowledging the former governor’s close ties with Netanyahu, Klinger said “why should this be different when you have your neighbor threatening to exterminate and kill you.”
Huckabee doubled down on his comments Sunday, tweeting an image with the headline-grabbing “door of the oven” quote, urging Americans to “tell Congress to do their constitutional duty & reject the Obama-Kerry #IranDeal,” with a link to his campaign website.
While on a trip in Africa Monday morning, Obama scolded Huckabee, saying the comments “would be considered ridiculous if it wasn’t so sad.” The Republican candidate fired back in a statement emailed to msnbc saying that “what’s ridiculous and sad is that President Obama does not take the Iran threats seriously.”
Members of Congress last week began a 60-day review of the deal, which several Republicans are hoping will result in blocking the agreement. Should Congress pass a resolution of disapproval, Obama vowed to issue a veto.