Jerry Brown kept alive the Nazi propaganda story today by remarking on it during his regular Thursday morning appearance on KGO — a gift to Meg Whitman’s campaign, which seems bent on getting as much wear out of its shiny new victim’s outfit it’s had on all week.
Brown said he hadn’t intended for his remarks comparing Whitman’s campaign to Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels to become public, so he meant no harm. He’d made his Nazi remarks to KCBS reporter Doug Sovern while taking a break from a run in the Oakland hills last week.
“We had a chat,” Brown said. “I made mention of propaganda and I referenced that fella from Germany which I probably shouldn’t have. But this was just a private conversation. Nobody had a pencil, nobody said by the way, this is a statement you’re making in public. Normally, people say I’m taking this down.
“Normally, when you take a few hours in the morning to get some exercise in the hills and you’re cooling down from a very vigorous workout and some guy comes up and he’s friendly and you’re chatting around, you don’t think you’re at a press conference or that you’re publishing an official record for the Congressional Record or something.”
Not only that, he said, but there was no tape recorder — not to suggest he hadn’t said what he said but that he let his guard down. “So when you have the context of where we were, what time it was and who was there, and then you get it into quotes, pretty soon it becomes far more impactful than it was ever intended,” he continued.
“So, yeah, I got the word. Once I’m in my position, I can’t really ever say anything just musing on my mind. But it really does mean that politicians are always very controlled and not very spontaneous in their communications.”
So, Brown is playing the victim here, too! Because he isn’t up to speed of the new world of instantaneous gotcha journalism, he shouldn’t be held accountable for his words. But he also makes a point that many would agree with: that there is something sad about a political environment in which everyone has their guard up, politicians speak only in poll-tested, focus-grouped phrasings, and their only means of communications should be through TV ads.
Interestingly, there is some ambiguousness over whether Brown has apologized for the remarks. The Associated Press reported he apologized — or, to be more precise, expressed regret over the remarks — to the the Jewish-rights group, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, but there is no public record of him apologizing to Whitman.
Andwhen asked whether he’d broken his pledge to avoid mudslinging, Brown said:
“It wasn’t mudslinging,” he said. “It was just kinda cooling down and having a conversation with a couple guys sitting on their bikes or standing next to a water fountain in the Oakland hills.”
Whitman campaign spokeswoman Sarah Pompei responded by asking, “how is it that Jerry Brown can say his comparison of Meg Whitman to a Nazi leader is not ‘mudslinging,’ especially while at the same time his campaign’s union backers are spending millions of dollars on television ads attacking her? Brown has failed to honor his pledge to end ‘mudlsinging’ in this election.”
It’s a curious point of attack, since Whitman’s team has made no such commitment and is preparing to go on a heavy barrage of attacks very soon. Brown had agreed during a previous KGO appearance to avoid mudslinging, though it was hardly a pledge.
But, Goebbels’ remark aside, did Whitman’s team really expect Brown to remain pacifist even as they bombard him with their own attacks? And if he indeed broke the “pledge,” is he now released from his responsibility? Or, if he hasn’t acknowledged that he broke a pledge, is it still intact?
Curiously, the amount of energy spent on pushing the Nazi story further along corresponds with the Whitman team’s desire to keep quiet on a New York Times story reporting that Whitman had to pay a $200,000 settlement to an eBay employee, Young Mi Kim, allegedly shoving her.
Brown’s spokesman Sterling Clifford said it was ironic that the Whitman team, after trying to shame Brown into providing his economic plan, has kept Whitman out of reach of the media since the Times story ran.
“Where has she been for the last (four days) to answer some legitimate questions about her behavior as a CEO of eBay?” Clifford said.
The Whitman campaign said Whitman hasn’t faced reporters this week because they had no public events planned, but that it expects that she’ll give a full explanation of the incident if asked.
“Meg has plans for public events next week and we’ll see if questions are asked,” said Tucker Bounds, her communications director. “Meg isn’t hiding from anything.”
Bounds added “my advice to the Brown campaign is if their candidate can’t stop making excuses for making offensive comments instead of apologizing and moving on, maybe their candidate should stop talking.”
The campaign also stands behind its earlier comment that the altercation between Whitman and the employee was a “verbal dispute” that in a “high pressure working environment” wasn’t “out of the ordinary.”
Clifford thought that was rich. “If it’s so common, are they saying a $200,000 settlement happens all the time?”