Area representative compares campaign against tax-cut bill to Nazi propaganda

Tuesday, September 10, 2013
Rep. Holly Rehder

A statement issued to constituents Friday by Rep. Holly Rehder, R-Sikeston, compared Adolf Hitler's use of propaganda in Nazi Germany to Gov. Jay Nixon's campaign against House Bill 253, drawing the ire of one of her state House colleagues.

Rehder issued a statement Monday apologizing to anyone "truly offended" by the reference.

"My degree is in public relations and one point that was hammered home throughout my study is that 'Perception Is Everything'," Rehder said to open her regular Capitol Report email blast last week. "This tidbit has been proven for years, if you will remember propaganda served as an important tool to win over the majority of the German public during Adolf Hitler's rule. I say this to remind you that you simply cannot take one side's viewpoint and proclaim it as the gospel. It behooves us all to research both sides of a debate before weighing in."

Rehder describes her support of House Bill 253 in the rest of the statement, and encourages constituents to look at the facts about the cut's potential to help economic development.

Supporters of the income tax bill say it will help Missouri business flourish. Opponents say the bill will slash education funding and services for the disabled.

"The governor's office has withheld $600 million in education funding since 2009," Rehder's statement said. "They understand how propaganda and fear moves our public."

Rep. Stacey Newman, D-St. Louis, married into a Jewish family and found the Nazi reference offensive. She sent a hard-copy letter to Rehder's Jefferson City, Mo., office stating her thoughts on the controversial comment. As an elected leader, Newman said she felt the responsibility to speak up.

In the letter, Newman wrote that Rehder's differences from the governor in policy are in no way comparable to Hitler's use of propaganda.

"I was extremely offended, as were many of my family, of your comparison of opposing policy views to the insanity of the Holocaust," Newman wrote. "Your comment was completely insensitive to those families throughout our state who have been forever altered by this horrific event in world history."

Newman on Monday said she understood where

Rehder was coming from with her comment, but the gravity of referring to Hitler's Nazi Germany resonates deeper with individuals who were directly affected by the Holocaust.

Newman said nothing compares to the Holocaust.

"Millions lost their lives in no fault of their own. And to use that in a context with a difference in policy views? There really is no connection," she said.

On Monday, Rehder issued a statement apologizing to "anyone who was truly offended by my comment. I would never knowingly hurt someone, nor would I want to distract from the meat of this very important piece of legislation."

Rehder said she hoped those who read her column see it as a call for a thoughtful, researched approach to the tax cut debate.

"I will vote to override the Governor's veto and urge my colleagues to do the same," Rehder said.

Newman said Rehder's comments had an intense meaning to many in the Jewish community of the St. Louis county she represents.

"It's like someone hit you in the chest, because it's callous, it's unfeeling and it sounds uneducated. Because of what that terminology actually means to people whose family members went through it," Newman said of Rehder's statement.

Newman's husband is a first-generation U.S. citizen whose lineage stopped because of what happened in Germany, she said. His grandmother, who Newman's daughter is named after, barely escaped Nazi Germany and lost eight sisters and their extended families during the Holocaust.

"That story is alive and well in our family," she said. "We want it to continue and this is what I need to do to help other people understand that we need to be respectful."

Newman said she has not received an apology or response from Rehder, who was elected in November to represent parts of Scott and Mississippi counties in the 148th House District.


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