Gov. Jan Brewer was criticized Wednesday for saying in an interview that her father “died fighting the Nazi regime in Germany” when he actually died in the 1950s.
Brewer previously said in speeches that her father was a civilian munitions worker in Nevada during the war who died after years of breathing poisonous fumes around harsh chemicals.
State Democratic Party spokeswoman Jennifer Johnson accused Brewer, a Republican, of embellishing the circumstances of her father’s death in a misleading way to cast herself in a more sympathetic light.
Brewer denied the allegation.
“I’m proud of my father and I have no reason to embellish,” Brewer told The Associated Press in a telephone interview from Washington. “Everybody was fighting for the freedom of America. He did fight … and I will say it until the day I die.”
The statement being criticized was published Tuesday by The Arizona Republic in an article about Brewer’s decision to sign the state’s controversial new illegal immigration law on April 23.
The newspaper said the signing subjected Brewer to unanticipated personal attacks, including comments comparing her with Nazis.
“Knowing that my father died fighting the Nazi regime in Germany, that I lost him when I was 11 because of that … and then to have them call me Hitler’s daughter. It hurts. It’s ugliness beyond anything I’ve ever experienced,” she was quoted by the newspaper.
Brewer frequently begins speeches by describing her life experiences, focusing on challenges that faced her mother, a single parent, following the death of her father.
In prepared texts of March, April and May speeches to Arizona audiences, Brewer said her father, Wilford Drinkwine, died in the 1950s as a result of “years of breathing poisonous fumes around harsh chemicals.”
Drinkwine was a worker at a Navy munitions depot at Hawthorne, Nev., she said in the speeches. The facility is now an Army ammunition plant.
Brewer said Wednesday her father died a “slow, painful death.”
“I wouldn’t lie about something like this,” she said.
Johnson said Brewer’s father may have died as a result of his wartime work, but Brewer’s description of the circumstances were misleading.
“It seems obvious that Jan Brewer stretched the truth to make herself a more sympathetic figure,” Johnson said. “This isn’t about her father. This is about the word choices that Jan Brewer made.”