Facing criticism for past comments comparing abortion to the Holocaust, the Republican nominee for governor in Illinois is refusing to apologize — and claiming that a group of rabbis backed the comparison.
“The Jewish community themselves have told me that I’m right,” Darren Bailey, a GOP state senator who is trying to unseat Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, said in a radio interview over the weekend. “All the people at the Chabads that we met with and the Jewish rabbis, they said, ‘No, you’re actually right.’”
In a 2017 Facebook video that resurfaced earlier this month, Bailey said that “the attempted extermination of the Jews of World War II doesn’t even compare on a shadow of the life that has been lost with abortion since its legalization.”
Pritzker, who is Jewish, condemned the comparison.
“Darren Bailey’s disgusting assertion that a woman determining her own reproductive future is worse than the Nazis’ genocide of 6 million Jews is offensive to Illinoisans everywhere,” Eliza Glezer, press secretary for Pritzker’s campaign, said in a statement. “With violent antisemitism on the rise and in the wake of a massacre against a predominately Jewish Highland Park, Bailey must answer for his hateful comments.”
Pritzker’s campaign also released a television ad highlighting Bailey's comments.
Bailey said the ad was released a day after he met with the rabbis. “Pritzker knew that,” he said. “So the timeliness was no mistake.”
It’s unclear which group of rabbis he was referring to. Rabbi Avraham Kagan, the director of government affairs for Lubavitch Chabad of Illinois, told the Forward, “We don’t know who he met with and his comments do not reflect our position.”
A representative for Bailey did not immediately return a request for comment.
Bailey said he is “pro-life” but conceded that “nothing is going to change” the law in Illinois, where abortion is legal and protected.
“My goal is to make abortion unnecessary,” he said. “We work together with everyone and we come up with real solutions, of which we do not have right now.”
Bailey’s comparison of abortion to the Holocaust has drawn widespread condemnation.
“The Holocaust and abortion are not the same,” the Anti-Defamation League’s Midwest chapter said in a statement. “These types of comments have no place in public discourse. They are deeply offensive and do an incredible disservice to the millions of Jews and other innocent victims killed by the Nazis.”
“Comparing the extreme horror of the Holocaust and its immeasurable loss to a woman’s right to choose is unacceptable,” Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., said in a statement. “Full stop.”
It’s not the first time Bailey has stirred controversy. Shortly after the mass shooting in Highland Park, Ill., on July 4, he was in nearby Skokie, Ill., one of several surrounding communities forced to cancel their Independence Day parades in the wake of the massacre.
“The shooter is still at large, so let’s pray for justice to prevail,” Bailey said while leading a group prayer that was broadcast live on his Facebook page. “And then let’s move on and let’s celebrate the independence of this nation.”
He added: “We have got to get corruption and evil out of our government.”
Bailey later apologized for suggesting the community quickly “move on” and “celebrate” Independence Day.
“I apologize if in any way we diminished the pain being felt across our state today,” he said in a statement. “I hope we can all come together in prayer and action to address rampant crime and mental health issues to make sure these horrific tragedies don’t happen again.”