Illinois Republican gubernatorial candidate Darren Bailey is facing intense backlash after footage showed him comparing abortion to the Holocaust during a 2017 interview.
Bailey, who won the party’s nomination to take on incumbent Gov. J.B. Pritzker in November, made the comments while he was running for the Illinois House in 2017.
“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,” he said during the interview.
The footage was re-published by Forward, a national Jewish newspaper, earlier this week.
The Anti-Defamation League’s Midwest chapter issued a statement following the publication of the video.
“The Holocaust and abortion are not the same,” the group said. “The (comments) are deeply offensive, and do an incredible disservice to the millions of Jews and other innocent victims killed by the Nazis.”
In a statement Tuesday, Bailey attempted to clarify his remarks, saying that the Holocaust was a “human tragedy without parallel.”
“The Holocaust is a human tragedy without parallel. In no way was I attempting to diminish the atrocities of the Holocaust and its stain on history,” he said. “I meant to emphasize the tragedy of millions of babies being lost. I support, and have met with, many people in the Jewish community in Illinois, and look forward to continuing to work with them to make Illinois a safer and more affordable place for everyone.”
Bailey has repeatedly said that he would support a total ban on abortion in the state of Illinois, and would not offer exceptions in the case of rape or incest.
The candidate is still facing criticism from officials on both sides of the aisle, with Pritzker, who is Jewish, launching a new ad criticizing the comments. The advertisement represents a continuation of the campaign’s efforts to paint Bailey as an extremist that is “out-of-touch” with the Illinois electorate.
“Darren Bailey’s disgusting assertion that a woman determining her own reproductive future is worse than the Nazis’ genocide of six million Jews is offensive to Illinoisans everywhere,” campaign Press Secretary Eliza Glezer told reporters 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.”
Some Republicans, including Illinois House GOP leader Jim Durkin, also criticized Bailey’s comments.
“The Holocaust was one of the worst atrocities in the history of humankind, and any comments that minimize it have no place in our political discourse,” he told CapitolFax in a statement.