By Jackie Kucinich - 03/09/06 12:00 AM EST
As a delegate to the Republican National Convention in 1984, Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Ohio) expressed her contempt for a future colleague and allegedly likened young Republican activists to Hitler, according to an interview published by the local paper at the time.
While shadowing Schmidt at the convention, The Cincinnati Enquirer reporter initially described Schmidt as a “woman who will speak her mind whenever she pleases.”
Schmidt, who was 32 at the time, provided evidence for this assessment during her time with the reporter, who quoted her taking issue with future Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C.), who was then President Reagan’s transportation secretary. During her tenure at Transportation, Dole wanted to impose a nationwide drinking age of 21.
“I hate that woman,” she told the reporter. “I just can’t stand her. Anyone who wants to force an increase in the drinking age to 21. … She can send our boys off to fight wars when they’re 17 and 18 but won’t let them drink till they’re 21.”
She added, “That stinks.”
The article also details her “booing” during a Dole appearance at the convention.
A spokeswoman for Dole, chairwoman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, declined to comment for this report.
Barry Bennett, Schmidt’s chief of staff, said, “The conservatives and the moderates didn’t get along very well in the 1980s. You can’t take a remark in the heat of a campaign out of context. That’s not fair.”
Bennett added that Schmidt was a Reagan supporter when the article was written.
Later in the article, while expressing her opinions about young Republican activists, she said, “They look like young Hitlers to me. … They’re so grim and deadly serious about the cause.”
“How are we going to attract mainstream kids to our party, kids who like to have fun and don’t take themselves so seriously?” she asked.
Bennett disputed that Schmidt made the comment, explaining that her twin sister, Jennifer Black, who was also mentioned in the paragraph, made the remark.
When asked to comment about her sister’s supposed remark, Bennett replied, “I don’t work for her sister.”
Michael Harlow, a spokesman for former Rep. Bob McEwen (R-Ohio), who is challenging Schmidt in the May primary, said, “It is disappointing to hear the contempt Mrs. Schmidt holds for Senator Dole, a woman who Bob McEwen and most Americans hold in very high esteem.”
He added: “Also, the hardworking activists she called ‘Hitlers’ were instrumental in our successful efforts to gain the majority for just the second time in 70 years.”
Schmidt defeated McEwen in an 11-candidate primary in July in a special election to fill the seat vacated by former Rep. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), who became the U.S. trade representative.
James P. Urling, chairman of the Cincinnati-based Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST), a group founded by another former Schmidt opponent, Tom Brinkman, said, “Jean Schmidt has a history of nasty barbs aimed at values we all hold dear.”
Schmidt faces a primary in May against McEwen as well as a general election in November. Brinkman has since dubbed Schmidt “Mean Jean” and has called her a “pathological liar.”
Bennett responded by calling Brinkman “the king of outrageous comments” and “a fringe player in politics in Cincinnati.”
Schmidt’s unabashed candor became national news and the butt of a joke on “Saturday Night Live” in November. She had made negative remarks about 17th-term Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) after he called for Bush to withdraw troops from Iraq. Schmidt later withdrew her words.
On Tuesday, Schmidt removed a claim on her website that Reps. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.) and Steve Chabot (R-Ohio) had endorsed her in the Republican primary this year after Tancredo and Chabot’s office said it was not true.