Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who helped build the Illinois Holocaust Museum in Skokie, on Wednesday said Republican rival Darren Bailey must apologize to Holocaust survivors in the state for saying the Nazi genocide of European Jews during World War II can’t compare to the deaths from abortion.
“What Sen. Bailey said was offensive. It’s offensive to me as someone who is Jewish, and it’s offensive to me as somebody who built a Holocaust museum with Holocaust survivors,” Pritzker said at an unrelated Springfield news conference.
“And it’s offensive to those survivors. He owes an apology to them. He owes an apology, especially to the survivors and their families.”
Bailey made his comments in 2017 as he was running for state representative, but they first came to light last week in a report by the nonprofit Jewish news organization the Forward. Last week, Bailey initially tried to explain his remarks, but the southern Illinois state senator made matters worse for himself on Tuesday — claiming the “Jewish community themselves” said he’s “actually right” to compare the Holocaust to abortion.
“The Jewish community themselves have told me that I’m right. That ad went out a day before we met with the Jewish, a day after we met with the Jewish community,” Bailey said in an interview on WSPY radio.
“And Pritzker, you know, knew that. So, the timeliness was no mistake, and all the people at the Chabads that we met with and the Jewish rabbis, they said, ‘No, you’re actually right.’”
Rabbi Avraham Kagam, director of government affairs for Lubavitch Chabad of Illinois, told the Sun-Times, “We don’t know who he [Bailey] met with, and his comments do not reflect our position.”
Pritzker has already used Bailey’s own words in a television ad and called them “disqualifying,” but the Democratic governor is now pushing for Bailey to apologize to Holocaust survivors and abortion rights supporters in Illinois.
Pritzker also called on more Republicans to speak out against the comments. Illinois House Republican Leader Jim Durkin of Western Springs, U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, Burr Ridge Mayor Gary Grasso and state Rep. Steve Reick of Woodstock are among the few Illinois Republicans who have done so.
“Why can’t Republicans just stand up and say what Darren Bailey said was wrong?” Pritzker asked. “Why can’t they do that?”
Speaking to reporters at a news conference at the Illinois State Fair, Pritzker said the remarks and the aftermath are proof Bailey “is a guy who does not understand what it is to be leader of the state of Illinois.”
“Why can’t Darren Bailey just apologize? He has now twisted himself into knots, first trying to explain what he said, then going back and saying, ‘Oh, no, I really meant what I said,’” Pritzker said.
Bailey avoided taking questions from reporters at a Chicago news conference on Monday in which the southern Illinois farmer received the endorsements of the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police and the Illinois Fraternal Order of Police. His campaign didn’t respond to a request for comment on Pritzker’s call for an apology.
In the 2017 video posted on his Facebook page, Bailey said, “I believe that abortion is one of the greatest atrocities of our day, and I believe it’s one of the greatest atrocities probably forever.”
“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,” Bailey said in the video.
Bailey tried to downplay his remarks last week, saying in a statement that 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,” Bailey said. “I meant to emphasize the tragedy of millions of babies being lost.”
On Wednesday, Pritzker said Bailey “doesn’t understand that he owes an apology certainly to the survivors of the Holocaust who are still among us in the state of Illinois and to all of us who care about how the governor speaks about the subject of the choice that women — very difficult choice — that women need to make sometimes to exercise their reproductive rights.”