The Duty of Candor and Rich Iott, the Tea Party’s Nazi Re-enactor Candidate

Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that Rich Iott, the Tea Party darling who is the Republican candidate for Ohio’s 9th District, isn’t necessarily unfit to be a U.S. Representative just because he used to dress up as a Nazi soldier, although he would have to come up with a much better explanation of why he thought that was a fun thing to do than he has managed to do so far. And if he’s planning on borrowing Christine O’Donnell’s “I am not a witch” campaign video approach—“I am not a Nazi. I’m you!” Worth a shot? Nah—-he should forget it. Still, let’s give him the benefit of a very large doubt.

It doesn’t help. He has still disqualified himself.

The reason—other than the fact that he admires Nazis—Rich Iott has disqualified himself from any elected office of trust is that he never disclosed to his movement, his party, his supporters, the media or the voters an aspect of his background that was absolutely, beyond a shadow of a doubt, “Bet the farm on it, Maggie, ’cause the horse is a sure thing!” certain to embarrass him and anyone who believed in his candidacy if it came to light, before or after the election. This is dishonest, cowardly, deceptive and irresponsible—as irresponsible as the detestable John Edwards continuing to run for the Democratic presidential nomination knowing that he had a festering scandal involving a hidden mistress and an illegitimate child. This is rank betrayal of trust, and a neon sign-bright instance of failing the duty of candor to those to whom he owes it, which in this case includes the state of Ohio and the entire nation. The duty of candor is the duty not to withhold key information from those who depend on you, and Iott failed it spectacularly.

In the neck-and neck race for the bottom of a putrid barrel in this frighteningly unethical field of candidates for national office, Iott just pulled ahead by a lap.

The Atlantic, in an expose by Joshua Green (complete with pictures of  Iott and his Heiling  pals smiling in their Nazi garb) has revealed that Iott for years donned a German Wafen SS uniform and participated in Nazi re-enactments. It seems that Iott was active with a group whose members are devoted to reliving the exploits of an actual Nazi division, the 5th SS Panzer Division Wiking, which fought mainly on the Eastern Front during World War II. Iott not only failed to divulge this bizarre activity; he actively took steps to hide it. His participation in the Wiking group is not included on his campaign’s website, and he had his name and photographs removed from the group’s website.

When confronted by The Atlantic and the photos, Iott admitted his involvement with the group over a number of years but said his interest in Nazi Germany was only “historical” and that he does not subscribe to the tenets of Nazism. “No, absolutely not,” he told Green. “It’s purely historical interest in World War II.”  He does seem to admire the Nazi military accomplishments, however:  “I’ve always been fascinated by the fact that here was a relatively small country that from a strictly military point of view accomplished incredible things. I mean, they took over most of Europe and Russia, and it really took the combined effort of the free world to defeat them. From a purely historical military point of view, that’s incredible.”

It is incredible what you can accomplish if you are completely ruthless and totally devoid of respect for truth, life and humanity.

As Green points out, the Wiking group website suggests a disturbingly sanitized version of history that strains to find the “good side” of Nazi soldiers. Green writes, “The group’s website includes a lengthy history of the Wiking unit, a recruitment video, and footage of goose-stepping German soldiers marching in the Warsaw victory parade after Poland fell in 1939. The website makes scant mention of the atrocities committed by the Waffen SS, and includes only a glancing reference to the “twisted” nature of Nazism. Instead, it emphasizes how the Wiking unit fought Bolshevist Communism:

Nazi Germany had no problem in recruiting the multitudes of volunteers willing to lay down their lives to ensure a “New and Free Europe,”  free of the threat of Communism. National Socialism was seen by many in Holland, Denmark, Norway, Finland, and other eastern European and Balkan countries as the protector of personal freedom and their very way of life, despite the true underlying totalitarian (and quite twisted, in most cases) nature of the movement. Regardless, thousands upon thousands of valiant men died defending their respective countries in the name of a better tomorrow. We salute these idealists; no matter how unsavory the Nazi government was, the front-line soldiers of the Waffen-SS (in particular the foreign volunteers) gave their lives for their loved ones and a basic desire to be free.

Ask a Russian how admirable these particular soldiers were. Indeed, go to the Holocaust museum in Washington, D.C. and check out the films of them stomping Russian women to death.

It is easy to understand why Iott felt that it would be advantageous to hide his support of an organization holding this view of soldiers who committed countless atrocities, not to mention his taste in uniforms. Nevertheless, even if we adopt the most benign interpretation of his enthusiastic participation in their re-enactments—that he’s an idiot—Iott had to know that this aspect of his past would guarantee his defeat if it ever became public. He knew this, yet allowed himself to be offered as a candidate, to accept endorsements and contributions, and to defeat alternative Republican candidates—candidates who never had the impulse to engage in Nazi re-enactments, or, for that matter, KKK re-enactments, re-enactments of the serial killings by Ed Gein or Jeffrey Dahmer, re-enactments of the Donner party’s cannibalism, or any other depraved activity—for purely historical purposes, of course. That Iott allowed himself to be backed by the Republican Party in a campaign against a non Nazi-admiring Democratic incumbent, without divulging this damning information before the party was committed to him, proves his lack of character, forthrightness, accountability and trustworthiness.

And he’s an idiot.

9 thoughts on “The Duty of Candor and Rich Iott, the Tea Party’s Nazi Re-enactor Candidate

  1. On one hand, I get your point (that website is questionable, to say the least). On the other hand, if they do this stuff with other people playing the Allied soldiers, than I’m not sure how this is ethically different from playing as the Germans or Japanese in Call of Duty 5 online multiplayer (except that one activity is a lot more visible than the other; Niggardly Principle again?).

  2. I don’t think there’s anything per se unethical about dressing as anyone or anything at all, and there’s nothing unethical about wishing you had been Adolf Hitler. But I can make reasonable assumptions about someone who admires Nazi soldiers enough to want to dress like one, just as I can make reasonable assumptions about Holocaust deniers. And the assumptions that are reasonable about video game role players and those about “re-enacters” are different, because the activity is different.

    • Sorry for the late response, but I’m not sure how video games are that different: Call of Duty 5 gives you the option, as a Russian infantryman, of killing surrendering German prisoners, the historically-themed Total War strategy games have the (fairly popular) option of pulling a Genghis Khan on prisoners and townspeople (and even destroying the American Revolution in the latest!), and one game allows you as a mercenary to work for the Russian Mafia. Many games also now have “light/dark-side” options, so you can choose whether you’ll rescue the princess, or sell her to the highest bidder. And of course there’s Grand Theft Auto.

      Personally, I think it’s less unethical and more Cowboys and Indians (more so if there were role-players on the other side like in Civil War reenactments); immature, yeah, but I’m someone who plays Humans versus Zombies in college.

      Still, he should have known that that could torpedo his electoral prospects. Then again, he could have been inspired by Marion Barry.

        • The piece was about his lack of candor, as you know. Still, I think you wildly underestimate the difference between playing a Nazi in a video game and dressing up as a Nazi. The formet raises no questions in my mind about the motivations of the player at all. The latter raises many rebuttable presumptions. One is that since most normal Americans would be revolted by dressing as a genocidal killer for any reason, someone who “proudly” takes on the uniform has some questionable philosophies. Julian, did you read the website? These people aren’t playing games; they are honoring Nazis—and the company that had Josef Mengele as a member, no less.

  3. Yeah, I did. I also saw the link to the 82nd Airborne Division Association’s response, and took a look at the pictures. It’s basically live-action role-playing of a type similar to Civil War reenactments (or those guys on my campus hitting each other with foam swords), similar to the play-soldier games I sometimes did as a kid, only with higher production values.

    The formation of such a group in and of itself doesn’t bothered me (hey, someone’s got to be the bad guy in these games), but I agree with you that the comments on their website definitely glossed over the atrocities and went too far in their celebratory bent. A simple “The 5th Wilking had a reputation for being skilled soldiers” would have sufficed.

    Though you’re being a bit unfair by mentioning Mengele; his “experiments” didn’t happen until after he had already left the unit. It’s a bit like blaming the Marines for Oswald (and the 5th actually tried to strike Mengele’s name from the veteran’s roll after the war, showing that even evil has standards).

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