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New IL Congresswoman Criticized For Saying ‘Hitler Was Right On One Thing’

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Illinois 15th District U.S. Rep. Mary Miller (R-Oakland), speaking at a Washington DC rally outside the Capitol Building on Tuesday. Miller's use of a Hitler quotation led to criticism back in her home state.

URBANA – Leaders of both major parties in Illinois condemned downstate Congresswoman Mary Miller Wednesday, for saying Adolf Hitler was “right on one thing” at a Washington D.C. rally. But Miller denies that her remark was meant to endorse any of Hitler’s ideas.

Miller, a staunch supporter of Donald Trump, cited the Nazi dictator at a pro-Trump rally held by the group Moms For America on the front lawn of the U.S. Capitol Building, two days after being sworn in to represent Illinois’ 15th congressional district.

In her three-minute speech, which Moms For America posted on its YouTube page on Thursday, the first-term Republican from rural Coles County in east-central Illinois said a lasting GOP victory could only come by reaching young people.

“If we win a few elections, we’re still going to be losing, unless we win the hearts and minds of our children,” said Miller, who was one of the featured speakers at the “Save the Republic” rally held by Moms For America.

“This is the battle. Hitler was right on one thing. He said, ‘Whoever has the youth, has the future’. Our children are being propagandized. Today, I want to encourage you to do two things. Fill your children’s minds with what is true and right and noble. And then, they can overcome evil with good, because they can actually discern between what is evil and what is good.”

Miller’s remarks quoted a widely circulated paraphrase of a statement Hitler made at the 1935 Nazi Party annual rally, according to Time Magazine.

Miller’s remarks initially came to light in Illinois through a video sent out via Instagram Live and Twitter by Margot McGowan Staebler, a Democrat and Michigan State University law student, who was in Washington D.C. with her family.

Miller’s speech was in the background as Staebler walked around at the rally, recording a brief commentary meant to be seen by friends. She says she attended the event because she sensed it was part of an important moment in history. Her video shows her eyes widening in surprise when Miller quoted Hitler. The video did not include the rest of Miller’s speech.

“I don’t think Hitler was right about anything,” said Staebler, when asked about Miller’s remarks later. “So I think the idea that youth turnout, youth engagement in civic organizations, the youth vote in important, I don’t think that notion is radical. I was surprised she decided to attribute that to Hitler.”

Governor J.B. Pritzker agreed with Staebler, when he commented on Miller’s remarks at his COVID-19 news conference on Wednesday.

“Hitler got nothing right,” said Pritzker, who is Jewish. “If Representative Miller was the least bit interested in history, she would visit the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center, to learn just how wrong Hitler really was.”

In a statement, the Illinois Holocaust Museum in Skokie invited Miller to pay them a visit, but said her remarks trivialized the genocidal damage done by Hitler.

“When you take these horrific moments in our history, and you use them for contemporary purposes in order to fulfill your political objectives, you trample on history and diminish the Holocaust and the memory of Survivors,” museum officials said.

Pritzker, a Democrat, called on Illinois Republicans to condemn Miller’s remarks, and some of them did.

“I outright condemn this garbage,” tweeted U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, who has been at odds with Miller over President Trump. Kinzinger is a Republican who represents Illinois’ 16th District.

“Our elected officials must not normalize, validate, or support Hitler’s memory, quotes, ideology, etc.” said Republican Tim Butler of Springfield, who represents the 87th District in the Illinois House. He sent his message in a tweet that displayed the Bronze Star awarded to his father, an infantryman in Europe during World War II.

State GOP Chairman Tim Schneider and state Senate Republican Leader Designate Dan McConchie both issued statements condemning Miller’s use of the Hitler quotation, with Schneider urging the congresswoman to apologize.

Meanwhile, the Illinois Legislative Jewish Caucus called on Miller to resign and launched a petition drive to that end on change.org .  The online petition had more than 2,000 signatures as of Thursday afternoon.

“A sitting member of Congress who uses Hitler’s obscene methods for indoctrinating children with racism and fascism as a guidepost, igniting hate and violence, has no place in Congress,” the group of state legislators said in a statement.

Another call for Miller’s resignation came Thursday, from U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), who said Hitler should not be a model for any kind of behavior.

“I cannot condemn in harsher terms Mary Miller’s despicable comments in the run-up to yesterday’s coup attempt,” said Duckworth. “And I call on her to resign immediately so that someone who better understands the sacrifices our brave service members made during World War II can more effectively represent our state.”

Democratic U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky tweeted “I agree” to Sen. Duckworth’s call for resignation. 

The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C. also commented, saying it “unequivocally condemns any leader trying to advance a position by claiming Adolf Hitler was ‘right.’ ”

Meanwhile, Moms For America, which sponsored the rally where Miller spoke, accused the news media of making “defaming insinuations” that she supported Hitler.  In a statement posted Thursday on their Facebook page, the group said Miller’s comments were actually made in defense of parental rights, “and the priority that families have in raising their children.”

“Truth is truth regardless of the source,” argued Moms For America in the post. “Hitler also said, ‘Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it.’ If we mandate people not talk about the insidious actions of Hitler we dismiss the horrific events he incited and open the door for them to be repeated.” (The quote that Moms For America attributes to Hitler is more commonly attributed to Joseph Goebbels; according to Wikipedia, both Hitler and Goebbels accused others of using the “Big Lie” tactic).

Miller’s office did not respond to requests for comment on the Hitler remark Wednesday or Thursday. But a defense of her remark appeared Wednesday afternoon on her congressional Twitter account, @RepMaryMiller, saying her remarks were meant to condemn, not approve, of Hitler’s tactics.

The tweet, apparently written by a spokesperson, stated, “Congresswoman Miller’s statement was a denunciation of evil dictators’ efforts to re-educate young people and similar efforts by left-wing radicals in our country today.”

The Chicago Sun-Times reported that an earlier tweet from Miller had been deleted. According to the newspaper, it said:  “Let me be clear. I would never glorify a genocidal dictator. It’s the left’s propaganda that controls the youth and social media is utilized as a machine to do this.” 

The later tweet from a Miller spokesperson appeared on Wednesday afternoon, around the time that pro-Trump extremists stormed the Capitol Building. This happened while Congress was engaged in the certification of electoral ballots. Miller joined a group of Republicans in contesting ballots in certain states that had voted for Democrat Joe Biden.

Later in the day, Miller published a post on her campaign Facebook page, saying she was safe, and that despite America’s divisions, there was no excuse for the violence that had occurred. But she made no mention of her reference to Hitler at Tuesday’s rally, or the storm of criticism that came in response.

(Update: This story was  updated with an expanded quote from Rep. Miller’s speech, and responses from Miller and Moms For America on their social media pages, and details on calls for Miller’s resignation. – JM 1/8/21 1:15  a.m.)

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Jim Meadows

Jim Meadows

Jim Meadows has been covering local news for WILL Radio since 2000, with occasional periods as local host for Morning Edition and All Things Considered and a stint hosting WILL's old Focus talk show. He was previously a reporter at public radio station WCBU in Peoria.

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