State Rep. Cris Dush compared Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration to the Nazi Party during a committee hearing Monday.
Dush (R., Jefferson) criticized Wolf’s lack of transparency in releasing coronavirus data and information on the state’s controversial business waiver process and compared his administration’s practices to the Nazi regime in Germany and to the Soviet Union.
“The press has been having a very difficult time fulfilling its responsibility to the public getting information out because this governor has repeatedly refused all sorts of information,” said Dush, who is running for a state Senate seat.
“More and more I go back to the Democratic National Socialist Party, the Nazi Party; I go to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the USSR. This is a socialist playbook,” he said at Monday’s House State Government Committee hearing. (The official name of the Nazi Party was the National Socialist German Workers’ Party.)
State Rep. Kevin Boyle (D., Phila.) immediately interjected and condemned the comparison.
“Chairman, this is outrageous,” said Boyle. “Stop it with the Nazi references. It is offensive and wrong, stop this.”
“It’s history,” Dush responded. “This is a socialist playbook, and I have to say that it’s important for the people of this state to start having access to information, rather than having it blown off to the side and hidden for an agenda.”
Dush could not immediately be reached for comment.
State Rep. Jared Solomon (D., Phila.) said that after the hearing, on the House floor with all members present, Dush apologized for his remarks. Solomon, who is Jewish, said he was shocked by the statements.
The comparison “undercuts the atrocities that the Nazi regime committed against six million Jews across the globe,” Solomon said. “It’s deeper than just being Jewish. It’s about being able to relate on a human level with people.”
Wolf’s office also denounced the comparison.
“In the last few days, House Republicans have shared fake reopening plans online and a rank and file member has compared the administration to Nazis while Republican members have spent time moving legislation to reopen zoos during a global pandemic and rallied with activists who have made threats against the governor,” a spokesperson for Wolf’s office said in an emailed statement.
“We badly need partners in the legislature who will take the challenge before them seriously instead of using it to divide the commonwealth,” the spokesperson said.
Dush has been a state representative since 2015. In 2018, he introduced a resolution to impeach the four Democrats on Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court over the court’s decision on the state’s congressional district map.
The Wolf administration has been criticized for its lack of transparency in coronavirus case data. While other states have publicized data on the race of COVID-19 patients for weeks, Pennsylvania has struggled to collect comprehensive demographics, which experts and some lawmakers say are vital to knowing where to target resources.
Last week, Republicans in the state legislature subpoenaed the Wolf administration for documents related to its coronavirus waiver process for businesses, which allowed select businesses to reopen despite the statewide shutdown.
Solomon said hearing Dush’s remarks was like an “out-of-body experience.”
“Here I am looking across at a guy I know, and something, my religion, my culture of being Jewish, which is so important to me, did not give him pause,” said Solomon.
“When you begin to talk about the Nazi regime as a reference point, you undermine the experience of not just the Jews who have perished, not just the Jews who have suffered anti-Semitism, but also their ancestors and Jews today who are constantly trying to make their memory real.”