Republican presidential candidate and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee has refused to apologize for drawing references from the World War II atrocities of the Holocaust to describe the Iran nuclear deal negotiated by the Obama administration as a bad one for Israel. His comments have led others within the GOP to keep their distance from him.
According to Nick Gass of Politico, the controversy originally stemmed with an interview conducted by Robert Wilde of Breitbart on Saturday about the Iran nuclear deal. Huckabee harshly criticized the president's nuclear deal with Iran as "the most feckless in American history."
"It is so naive that he would trust the Iranians," Huckabee said on Saturday. "By doing so, he will take the Israelis and march them to the door of the oven. This is the most idiotic thing, this Iran deal."
Gass reported that Huckabee has doubled down on his remarks, firing back at President Obama with a statement. Obama described the former Baptist minister's comments as "ridiculous if it wasn't so sad," suggesting that "Maybe it's just an effort to push Mr. Trump out of the headlines."
"What's 'ridiculous and sad' is that President Obama does not take Iran's repeated threats seriously. For decades, Iranian leaders have pledged to 'destroy,' annihilate,' and 'wipe Israel off the map' with a 'big Holocaust,'" Huckabee said.
Huckabee added that he "will stand with our ally Israel to prevent the terrorists in Tehran from achieving their own stated goal of another Holocaust."
According to Politico, the Anti-Defamation League, which monitors anti-Semitism, swiftly denounced Huckabee's language.
"Whatever one's views of the nuclear agreement with Iran - and we have been critical of it, noting that there are serious unanswered questions that need to be addressed - comments such as those by Mike Huckabee suggesting the president is leading Israel to another Holocaust are completely out of line and unacceptable," ADL National Director Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement. "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."
Gass reported that Jeb Bush, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, and Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton hammered Huckabee on his controversial remarks.
"This is not the way we're going to win elections. That's not how we're going to solve problems," Bush said, noting that it was "just wrong" to use "that kind of language."
"Well, I'm certainly not gonna say it, but I'm telling you, they can speak for themselves," Walker said. "I'm gonna tell you what I'm for and you're not hearing me use that sort of language."
"Comments like these are offensive and have no place in our political dialogue. I am disappointed and I am really offended personally," Clinton said. "I know Governor Huckabee. I have a cordial relationship with him. He served as governor of Arkansas. But I find this kind of inflammatory rhetoric totally unacceptable."
Huckabee then went on Twitter to take on the critics, in particular Clinton.
"You finally come out of hiding to attack me for defending Israel? What's 'unacceptable' is a mushroom cloud over Israel," Huckabee wrote.
Former Bush White House press secretary Ari Fleischer told Politico that while he shared Huckabee's concern about the Iran nuclear deal being a bad one, he condemned the language as "insensitive and too blunt."
"Within the Jewish community, the Holocaust, the words associated with it, are unique," Fleischer said. "And even a sympathetic politician who wants to make certain the Holocaust is not repeated needs to be culturally aware of the unique words that should apply only to the Holocaust."
Fleischer added that Huckabee's Holocaust reference "probably rubs everyone the same wrong way." However, he thought the political impact on the former Arkansas governor would be limited.
"Mike Huckabee's success is going to depend on what happens in Iowa," Fleischer said. "The number of voters in Iowa who vote on word usage associated with the Holocaust is rather small."
According to Breitbart, Huckabee pointed out that he still enjoyed the highest favorability ratings of all 2016 GOP presidential candidates.
"People don't vote for someone they don't like. So I just got a make sure I don't start doing stuff that make people stop liking me," Huckabee said.