Clyburn defends Holocaust comments

Clyburn defends Holocaust comments
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House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) on Thursday defended controversial comments he made this week related to the Holocaust, saying that dark chapter of history — and the Jewish suffering that accompanied it — was uniquely horrific and he would never diminish its significance.

"Every student of history, which I consider myself to be, recognizes the Holocaust as a unique atrocity which resulted in the deaths of six million Jews," he said in a statement posted to Twitter. "It should never be minimized; I never have and I never will."

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Clyburn came under fire Thursday from Republicans and some Jewish groups after saying the experience of Rep. Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarDems seek to rein in calls for impeachment Nancy Pelosi had disastrous first 100 days as Speaker of the House The silencing of American Muslims MORE (Minn.) — a freshman Democrat who fled violence in her country and spent four years in a Kenyan refugee camp — was "more personal" than that of those whose parents suffered through the Holocaust or other historical instances of savage violence and human rights abuse.

"I'm serious about that. There are people who tell me, 'Well, my parents are Holocaust survivors.' 'My parents did this.' It's more personal with her," Clyburn told The Hill.

"I've talked to her, and I can tell you she is living through a lot of pain."

Omar, a Muslim American, has been under intense criticism for comments made last week that detractors say suggest American supporters of Israel have an "allegiance to a foreign country" — language invoking a long-held anti-Semitic trope of "dual loyalty." And Clyburn lamented that media reports surrounding the controversy have too often excluded any mention of Omar's own experience with violence and displacement.

Clyburn's remarks were quickly condemned by some Jewish groups and lawmakers, including the Anti-Defamation League, which urged Clyburn to apologize.

"The Holocaust was a singular tragedy resulting in the death of 6M Jews," the ADL said on Twitter. "It’s offensive to diminish the suffering of survivors & the continuing pain of Jews today. We respect @WhipClyburn’s long record of public service, but he should apologize & retract."

Clyburn, in his statement, did neither. He cited sections of his 2015 memoir, in which he recounts his own struggles growing up as an African-American in the south. And he suggested that he's not swaying in his support for Omar.

"Throughout the book I make clear that we are all the sum of our experiences," Clyburn said.

"We can be no more or any less than what those experiences allow us to be. To recognize and honor the experiences of one member of our Caucus does not mean that we ignore or dishonor the experiences of another."