Within hours of a news report that GOP gubernatorial candidate Darren Bailey had said the Holocaust “doesn’t even compare” to legalized abortion in 2017 campaign video, Gov. JB Pritzker’s campaign was online with an ad publicizing the statement.
“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,” Bailey said in the video first highlighted by the independent Jewish nonprofit publication Forward. “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.”
The ad, originally posted to Bailey’s Facebook page on Oct. 12, 2017, during his initial campaign for the Illinois House, was 12 minutes long and still published to the page as of Tuesday.
It was recorded to criticize Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner’s signing of a bill that allowed abortions to be covered under the state’s medical assistance program and through state employee insurance.
Bailey won the election to the House and later was elected to the sate Senate, where he remains in his first term.
Pritzker, who is Jewish, issued a news release quoting Jewish leaders and highlighting his latest advertisement, which included Bailey’s remarks on the Holocaust and previous comments opposing abortion in the case of rape or incest.
“Conflating a woman’s bodily autonomy to the systematic mass murder of Jewish people is antisemitic and disqualifying,” Pritzker’s campaign press secretary, Eliza Glezer, said in statement. “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. With violent antisemitism on the rise and in the wake of a massacre against the predominately Jewish Highland Park, Bailey must answer for his hateful comments.”
Bailey’s campaign later issued a statement calling the Holocaust 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 in the statement. “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.”
The Tuesday news release noted that prior to becoming a political candidate, Pritzker worked with Holocaust survivors to found the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center in Skokie. It also quoted Samuel R. Harris, president emeritus of the center.
“This despicable rhetoric is dangerous, trivializes one of the worst stains on human history, and disparages the memory of millions,” Harris said. “It is imperative that we learn from the past so that we never allow such tragedy to befall us again. We must demand more from our elected officials.”
State Rep. Bob Morgan, who chairs the Illinois House Jewish Caucus, called it “demeaning to the legacies of those we’ve lost to reduce their suffering to a political talking point.”
The Pritzker ad is one of an onslaught he’s purchased attacking Bailey, many of which have focused on reproductive rights. The first, funded by the Democratic Governors Association which received $24 million from Pritzker, came during the primary, calling Bailey “too conservative” for Illinois.
While the ad was ostensibly a negative piece, it served to bolster Bailey’s conservative credentials in a five-way race for the GOP nomination by highlighting his “100 percent pro-choice” voting record, his opposition to “liberal gun control” and his embrace of President Donald Trump.
That ad, combined with DGA ads attacking Bailey’s main rival, Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin, led many to take notice of a national trend of perceived “Democratic meddling” in GOP primaries to propagate more controversial, right-wing candidates.
It’s a charge Pritzker has denied.
“He won 57 percent of the Republican votes in that primary,” Pritzker said of Bailey in an interview with Capitol News Illinois following the June primary. “And my message is a general election message against all of the Republicans. You know, we had messages about the candidate who was talking about corruption in Illinois, when he himself was involved in corruption. We had messages about the candidate who is truly extreme on every issue, including choice. And, you know, we’re fighting the Republicans, it’s just about Democrats beating Republicans.”
It won’t be the last anti-Bailey piece, as Pritzker’s campaign fund balance was over $60 million in his latest filing and his net worth exceeds $3 billion. Bailey’s fund, meanwhile, had just over $360,000 as of mid-July, and he hadn’t reported any six-figure donations since the primary as of Tuesday.
Bailey’s main funder in the primary, shipping supply magnate Richard Uihlein, has not given money to Bailey’s campaign fund since June. He has, however, donated $20 million to the People Who Play by the Rules political action committee, which has attacked Democrats and Pritzker but has not directly supported Bailey since the primary.
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