Joe “The Plumber” Wurzelbacher’s campaign for Congress is defending his association with 2010 Republican candidate Rich Iott, who endorsed Joe the Candidate earlier this week, and who dealt with controversy in the last campaign when it was discovered that he enjoys spending his weekends dressed up like a Nazi soldier.
With Ohio losing two seats in the House, this district was combined from the home turfs of two Democratic incumbents, Reps. Marcy Kaptur and Dennis Kucinich. This week, Mr. The Plumber put out a press release touting the endorsements of past Republican opponents of each of the Democrats — including Iott, who ran against Kaptur in 2010.
The problem here, of course, is that Iott made quite a name for himself in the 2010 cycle — due to his hobby of spending weekends dressing up as a Nazi for World War II reenactments — specifically as a member of the 5th SS Wiking Panzer Division, a unit in the German army that was actually recruited from foreign volunteers.
In an interview with TPM, Wurzelbacher’s deputy campaign director Phil Christofanelli vigorously defended Iott as a job-creating businessman who has helped the Toledo area — and denied the legitimacy of any negative associations.
“He has a whole collection, it’s one of the thing he does. I don’t know all the costumes he does, but he has a whole wardrobe of different army costumes,” said Christofanelli, also adding, “Joe has actually seen his collection, I understand.”
TPM asked Christofanelli about one of Iott’s troubling comments. In one interview on CNN, Iott disputed Anderson Cooper’s characterization of the Wiking Division as “collaborators”: “I don’t know that I would put that label on them. They were doing what they thought was right for their country. And they were going out and fighting what they thought was a bigger, you know, a bigger evil.”
Christofanelli responded: “You know, I think Rich Iott was making a historical point, not in any way suggesting that he supported Nazis. As I mentioned, Rich Iott is a strong supporter of Israel, and was throughout his entire campaign. Rich Iott is not a Nazi, and has no affiliation with any kind of Nazis. This is part of his little war re-enactors organization. This is just one of many different ways they dress up.”
Christofanelli also said that these questions were explained and settled by Iott in the 2010 election. TPM then pointed out then Iott lost that election by a 59%-41% margin.
“Come on, do you know what the numbers are in that district, before they redistricted?” Christofanelli responded. “This was a very difficult district for Rich Iott, and I think he did a good job with the resources he had.”
Nevertheless, we asked, was there any concern about bad political optics from touting Iott’s support?
“The only political optic we’re concerned about is having a job creator like Rich Iott on your side. We are thrilled to have Rich Iott on our side. he’s done a lot for the toledo area,” Christofanelli said, also adding: “We’re happy to have him on board. And we’re sorry that you’re taking such a negative approach to this, it seems a little petty.”