Below is NJDC's statement this morning on former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.
It is tough enough for Romney's campaign to explain away his ever-changing views on social issues -- now, he trips up his own considerable efforts to court Jewish political support.
National Jewish Democratic Council Decries Mitt Romney's Embrace of Henry Ford
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: David Goldenberg
February 12, 2007
Washington, DC - The National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) expressed its deep concerns today about Republican Mitt Romney's decision to announce his candidacy for President from the Henry Ford Museum in Detroit, Michigan. Located on grounds formally owned by Ford, the museum is a testament to the life of Henry Ford, a notorious anti-Semite and xenophobe whose belief that Jews were second-class, inferior citizens were expressed in detail in his writings on his theory of Americanization. Ford was also bestowed with the Grand Service Cross of the Supreme Order of the German Eagle by Adolph Hitler.
"NJDC is deeply troubled by Governor Romney's choice of locations to announce his Presidential campaign. Romney has been traveling the country talking about inclusiveness and understanding of people from all walks of life. Yet he chooses to kick his presidential campaign on the former estate of a well-known and outspoken anti-Semite and xenophobe. Mitt Romney's embrace of Henry Ford and association of Ford's legacy with his presidential campaign raises serious questions about either the sincerity of Romney's words or his understanding of basic American history," said NJDC Executive Director Ira Forman.
This is not the first time that Mitt Romney has raised concerns in the American Jewish community. As Governor as Massachusetts, Romney vetoed 2003 a budget provision increasing the cost and reducing the availability of kosher meals for Jewish residents on Medicaid. Romney was criticized at the time by Jewish community officials. The Orthodox Union was disappointed by the veto, calling "access to kosher meals" a "religious liberty issue." (http://njdc.typepad.com/njdcs_blog/2007/01/romneys_push_fo.html)
Political candidates who have used Henry Ford as a cornerstone of their campaigns have often been met with skepticism by the American Jewish community. Most recently, former Congressman J.D. Hayworth (R-AZ) lost to Henry Mitchell last November after Hayworth refused to distance himself from his previous praise of Henry Ford's theory of Americanization. (http://njdc.typepad.com/njdcs_blog/2006/08/jd_hayworth_the.html)
"Mitt Romney's courtship of the Jewish community has primarily occurred within the realm of political fundraising. He will soon find out, however, that simple pro-Israel platitudes will only get him so far in the Jewish community. We hope that Mitt Romney will dedicate himself to learning American history - and especially the history of the American Jewish community," Forman concluded.
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UPDATE: This story has been picked up by the Associated Press, which reports that "Eric Fehrnstrom, a spokesman for Romney, said the candidate will go ahead with his announcement as planned."