Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown said Tuesday that he is sorry that Jewish leaders were upset by comments in which he compared the saturation campaign of GOP contender Meg Whitman to that of a Nazi propaganda minister.
Brown addressed the controversy after a speech to tech industry leaders in Silicon Valley at which he faulted the Legislature for missing a deadline Tuesday for approving the state budget. Whitman’s camp later criticized Brown for not providing details on how to solve California’s fiscal crisis.
The controversy stems from comments made by Brown before last week’s primary election in which he told a radio reporter whom he met while jogging that the Whitman campaign’s saturation was “like Goebbels,” a reference to Nazi propaganda architect Joseph Goebbels.
The Anti-Defamation League this week called Brown’s comment deeply offensive and inappropriate. “Well, I’m sorry,” Brown said Tuesday, referring to the Jewish leaders being upset. “I talked to the people at the Holocaust center, and they completely understand.”
Rabbi Marvin Hier, the founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, confirmed Tuesday that Brown called him last week and admitted he should not have used Goebbels’ name in a political dispute.
“He regretted it. It was a mistake,” Hier said, recalling their conversation. “I think he did the right thing to apologize.”
Asked Tuesday about the incident, Brown said, “I will tell you this: Jogging in the hills with sweating strangers will no longer result in conversation. Mum’s the word.”
In his speech to 300 tech leaders, Brown also was mum about his plans for cutting state spending.
“How do you do things without the money? It’s very difficult, but I have a plan. I’ll tell you after the election,” Brown quipped, drawing laughter from his audience but criticism later in the day from Whitman spokeswoman Sarah Pompei.
“This election and this issue are far too important for Gov. Brown to continue to dodge questions, avoid specifics and shirk responsibility,” Pompei said.
Brown ridiculed legislators for taking too long to act on the budget and having the wrong priorities.
He said the governor gives a speech to lawmakers early in the year about his proposed budget, “and then they all go home. They have 4,000 bills that are urgent. They’ve got to get helmets on young skiers....,” he said, referring to a pending Senate bill.
Meanwhile, national Republicans, buoyed by what they see as a potential resurgence in California, pledged on Tuesday to send significant financial, logistical and strategic resources to the state in coming weeks.
Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, speaking to reporters on a conference call, said Republicans in years past have treated California as a “flyover” state because of Democrats’ electoral edge, or little more than fertile grounds for fundraising.
“The days of just grabbing and going or just ignoring altogether are over,” he said, after meeting with California Republican Party Chairman Ron Nehring in Washington. “We’re going to be full partners on the ground.”