Dalessandro issues belated apology for calling GOP leadership Nazis

Hank Stephenson//October 11, 2016

Dalessandro issues belated apology for calling GOP leadership Nazis

Hank Stephenson//October 11, 2016

(Andrea Dalessandro / Facebook page)
(Andrea Dalessandro / Facebook page)

Arizona Democratic Sen. Andrea Dalessandro recently told her Facebook followers that she had something to “CONFESS.”

At an interview with the Arizona Daily Star editorial board in September, Dalessandro called GOP leadership at the Capitol “Nazis.”

Her confession, however, was more of a boast. She didn’t apologize for the comparison, but explained that the reference may have come out of her mind because the Nazi invasion of Poland “is etched deep in my psyche as a Polish American.”

“Or it might be that I saw commercials for the PBS show that airs tonight [titled] ‘Defying the Nazis: The Sharps’ Wars.’ Or it could be that I have been to regional conferences where I learn from other legislators in GOP controlled legislatures that Democratic bills routinely get heard,” she wrote on Facebook.

Dalessandro’s Facebook friends completely agreed with her comparison of the GOP legislative leadership to the regime that killed 11 million people. The seven comments she received on her confession post were all positive. “Nicely And Well Stated, Senator Dalessandro!! Thank You!!” wrote one commenter.

Then, a week later, after she had some time to reconsider the comparison, she doubled down.

“While the Nazis targeted the Jews and others, the leadership of the AZ Legislature targeted reasonable campaign finance laws, voter rights, poor people, public schools, environmental safeguards, minorities, women, poor children and Tucson, just to name a few. They have also waged war on the 88 or so Mexican Grey Wolves,” she wrote on September 28.

In the follow-up post, Dalesandro noted that her original Facebook explanation forgot to mention that she also visited the Holocaust Museum.

“People need to understand how it really works with the GOP controlled Legislature,” she wrote.

That post received mostly positive feedback as well, further encouraging Dalessandro, who in response to a comment, further explained how GOP leadership is like the Nazis.

“Budget is done behind closed doors and we always finish in the middle of the night or early morning away from public eyes. I promised my constituents to be a strong voice. Someone has to stand up and speak the truth,” she wrote.

Dalessandro didn’t return several calls, but eventually apologized after being condemned by the Arizona Anti-Defamation League, Republican lawmakers and her Democratic colleagues. She also removed the Facebook posts.

But not before she doubled and tripled down on the comments elsewhere.

Tucson radio legend Bill Buckmaster briefly brought up the comment in a Sept. 27 interview with Dalessandro, who again stood by her remarks, basically reiterating her complaints about Republicans refusing to hear Democratic bills.

Dan Shearer, editor of the Green Valley News, wrote a Sept. 24 column that mentioned her Nazi comment, though Shearer was quick to rationalize it for the senator.

“That’s a rough word, but chalk it up to that frustration I mentioned,” Shearer wrote in the op-ed.

And although she called GOP leadership “Nazis” in front of the paper’s editorial board, the Arizona Daily Star endorsed Dalessandro and never mentioned the comment.

Dalessandro’s opponent for the Senate seat in her heavily Democratic southern Arizona district, Republican Shelley Kais, was in the room when Dalessandro dropped the Nazi reference.

“I kind of leaned forward and interrupted her and said, ‘Three of the five of us are going to go to Phoenix, and I don’t know what that makeup is going to be, but I do know we’re not going to get people to work with us or fight for our district with comments like that,’” Kais said.

Kais noted that Dalessandro’s original online “confession” was not an apology, but a doubling down on her original statement.

“I’ve said things that weren’t right in my lifetime, so I apologized,” Kais said, adding that Dalessandro has had several chances to take back the statement but has instead chosen to dig in.

“It’s just sad,” she said.

Carlos Galindo-Elvira, director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Arizona region, said the organization firmly believes there can never be a comparison to Nazis, “whose plan to exterminate the Jewish people resulted in the brutal, systematic murder of millions of Jews and others during the Holocaust. It is profoundly insensitive to make the comparison,” he said in an email.

“The Nazis’ level of atrocious actions is not interchangeable to the legislative process. In doing so, use of the term trivializes the Holocaust and [is] deeply offensive to Holocaust survivors and an insult to the memory of those who perished at the hands of the Nazis.”

Dalessandro’s comment that GOP leadership at the Capitol conduct themselves like “Nazis” also didn’t go over well among her colleagues.

Senate Majority Leader Steve Yarbrough of Chandler called the comparison “ridiculous, outrageous and totally inappropriate. And I thought her explanation is just about as goofy as the statement itself.”

Yarbrough said his father fought against the Nazis in World War II, and nobody is like Nazis, except Nazis.

Yarbrough, who is expected to win the Senate presidency next year, said he’s always gotten along with Dalessandro personally, “so I was frankly stunned.”

“I just couldn’t believe she didn’t [retract the statement and say], ‘It was in the heat of the moment, I thought about it,’ and then call us some other name,” he said.

Senate President Andy Biggs of Mesa, however, said he doesn’t care what Dalessandro thinks of him.

Asked if it bothers him to be called a Nazi by one of his colleagues, he said it “depends on who is doing the calling. In this case, no.”

Senate Democratic Assistant Leader Steve Farley of Tucson, however, said he was disappointed in Dalessandro’s choice of words, and that she is “better than that.”

“I think campaigns get wild, particularly this season, and it’s unfortunate,” he said.

Farley said he understands Dalessandro’s frustration as a member of the minority, “but that’s something you just don’t say.”

In a statement on October 10, four days after the Capitol Times’ sister publication, Yellow Sheet Report, reported her comments, Dalessandro apologized.

“I let my frustration with how they treat legislators who disagree with them cloud my better judgment, and for that I apologize. Having grown up with friends whose entire families were lost to the Holocaust, I am well aware of how much this tragedy weighs on the soul of humanity. My comments were insensitive to those who suffered, those who survived, and those who work to ensure the world never forgets and never again witnesses such horror,” she wrote in a statement.

She did not respond to a follow up email asking why she decided to change her tune after doubling and tripling down on the Nazi reference previously.