Kentucky Congressman Invokes Holocaust, Jewish Women’s Sex Lives in Speech

Kentucky Rep. Danny Bentley made comments about Jewish women and the Holocaust during a Wednesday debate on anti-abortion legislation, prompting swift condemnation from several members of the Jewish community who raised serious concerns about what he said.

Bentley, a Republican and druggist from Russelllater apologized for his comments on Wednesday night, saying he “meant absolutely no harm”.

As state officials debated a omnibus bill against abortion On Wednesday afternoon, Bentley spoke about the medical abortions the legislation would restrict and invoked Jews and the Holocaust as he made statements about the origins of one such drug, which members of the Jewish community were quick to denounce. denounced as both false and anti-Semitic.

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Bentley falsely said RU-486, or Mifepristoneone of two pills taken to induce abortion, was developed during World War II and was called Zyklon B, the gas that killed millions of Jews during the Holocaust.

He added that “the person who developed it was a Jew.”

Referring to an earlier floor amendment that attempted to allow Jewish women to be exempted from abortion restrictions in the bill — with the Democrat who introduced it, Rep. Mary Lou Marzian of Louisville, saying that faith does not believe that life begins at conception – Bentley then spoke out about his perception of the sexual habits of Jewish women, “since we have raised the Hebrew family today”.

“Did you know that a Jewish woman has less cervical cancer than any other race in this country or in this world? Bentley asked. “And why is that? Because Jewish women only have one sexual partner… They don’t have multiple sexual partners. To say that the Jewish people now approve of this drug is wrong.”

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Referring to the company that made RU-486 and again referring to the Holocaust, Bentley further asked, “Why would they do that?” Because they make money with it.

No one responded to Bentley’s comments during the abortion debate that lasted about two hours.

Sen. Karen Berg, D-Louisville, a physician and the only Jewish member of the legislature, listened to Bentley’s speech and was outraged both by the lies and by the fact that people of her religion were even a subject.

While the person who developed RU-486 was Jewish, she noted that it happened in the 1980s.

“The first clinical trials on this drug had nothing to do with World War II (and) had nothing to do with the Holocaust,” Berg said. “That the promoter is indeed of Jewish descent… what difference does it make?” And why is it lifted to the ground? »

Kentucky Representative Danny Bentley, R-Russell

Bentley apologized for his comments in a statement provided Wednesday evening to the Courier Journal.

“I meant absolutely no harm in my comments today and I sincerely apologize for anything they have caused. Last week we received a heartbreaking and sad reminder that anti-Semitism still exists in our society and I apologize if my comments today have caused similar pain or any doubt that I stand with the Jewish community against hate,” he said. “My intention was to speak as as pharmacist of the history of RU-486 and to respond to a proposed amendment. I clearly should have been more sensitive with my comments.”

The American Jewish Committee — along with the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Louisville and the National Council of Jewish Women’s Louisville Section — condemned Bentley’s comments in a statement late Wednesday.

“On Wednesday, during a hearing on women’s reproductive choice, Rep. Danny Bentley launched a bizarre anti-Semitic rant that included outlandish claims about Jewish women’s sex lives and the outrageous claim that Jews had created the ‘abortion pill’ during the Holocaust for financial gain,” they said. “We call on all elected officials and community partners to speak out forcefully against anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry, especially when they come from elected officials to serve the people of the Commonwealth.”

“We urge Kentucky House and Senate leaders to accept our offer to provide anti-Semitism training to all Kentucky General Assembly members and their staff,” they continued. “We acknowledge Rep. Bentley’s apology, however, words matter and leadership matters.”

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Shortly after Bentley made his controversial comments on the House floor Wednesday afternoon, Jewish Federation of Louisville President and CEO Sara Klein Wagner said Bentley’s comments once showed more than “words matter”.

She expressed concern about Bentley’s speech and said he seemed to be trying to teach a historical lesson – but that lesson was wrong. She also said it was concerning that he was able to continue making those comments, relentlessly, without other lawmakers pushing back on the House.

“I think it comes down to the fact that words matter. Speaking up when you hear words and comments that don’t make sense can lead to bigger problems and be hurtful,” she said.

Bentley’s controversial comments during Wednesday’s legislative debate came the week after two other GOP lawmakers, Representative Walker Thomas and Senator Rick Girdler, uttered the anti-Semitic phrase “Jew them down” at a legislative committee meeting, for which they later apologized. The Lexington Herald-Leader reported that both men apologized.

His speech also came just days after various lawmakers in the Kentucky House of Representatives received an anti-Semitic email sent anonymously, which top Republican and Democratic leaders in the chamber called “as false as it is disgusting.”

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Wagner said the Jewish Federation of Louisville and the American Jewish Committee reached out to House Speaker David Osborne, R-Prospect, and Senate Speaker Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, last week and offered to provide training. to legislators on understanding and combating anti-Semitism.

She said the training is designed to expose people from diverse backgrounds to what constitutes anti-Semitic language and tropes and how those things put Jews at risk.

Angela Billings, spokesperson for the Kentucky Senate Republicans, told The Courier Journal Wednesday night that Senate leadership will add cultural sensitivity training on anti-Semitism alongside other training state senators receive each year.

Wagner noted that the anonymous, anti-Semitic email received by House lawmakers last week was deeply concerning.

The Jewish Federation of Louisville and the American Jewish Committee jointly denounced it Friday in a statement, saying it was filled with anti-Semitic allegations about American Jews dominating the Atlantic slave trade and promoted the leader’s anti-Semitic views. of the Nation of Islam Louis Farrakhan, who has a good reputation. documented history of such rhetoric.

Berg noted that she personally received the email in question and has yet to receive a personal apology from lawmakers who used the anti-Semitic slur “Jew them” in committee. She said the past week has been “very discouraging”.

“Houston, we have a problem,” she added.

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Osborne and House Minority Floor Leader Joni Jenkins, D-Shively, sent a statement on Monday condemning anti-Semitic emails received by lawmakers and said they were working with legislative staff to ensure lawmakers and employees are “much less likely to see this type of bigotry.”

“Kentucky was the first state to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of antisemitismand a central part of this resolution is to speak out against hate whenever and wherever it occurs,” they said. “It’s one of those times.

Honi Marleen Goldman, a multigenerational Jewish member of the Louisville community, emailed Osborne on Wednesday calling Bentley’s remarks during the debate on the anti-abortion bill “anti-Semitic, inflammatory and filled with rhetoric. hatred”.

“I implore you to have his words officially removed from the House record,” Goldman said.

Journalist Deborah Yetter contributed to this story. Morgan Watkins is the Courier Journal’s chief political reporter. Contact her at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter: @morganwatkins26.

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