SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Legendary venture capitalist Tom Perkins apologized for comments comparing the treatment of wealthy Americans to the Nazi’s persecution of Jews, although he stood by his belief in the danger of demonizing the rich.
“I deeply apologize to you and anyone who has mistaken my reference to Kristallnacht as a sign of overt or latent anti-Semitism,” he said in an interview Monday on Bloomberg Television. “This is not the case.”
Perkins, 81, sparked criticism when he likened the Nazi party’s war on Jews to what he called “the progressive war on the American one percent, namely the ‘rich’,” in a letter published Saturday in the Wall Street Journal.
“Kristallnacht was unthinkable in 1930,” he wrote, referring to the 1938 attack on Jews in Nazi Germany and Austria. “Is its descendent ‘progressive’ radicalism unthinkable now?”
The firm Perkins co-founded, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, tweeted that “Tom Perkins has not been involved in KPCB in years. We were shocked by his views expressed today in the WSJ and do not agree.”
“They chose to throw me under the bus,” Perkins said on Monday about the firm, which has gone through a few years of lackluster returns and is battling a former partner in a gender-discrimination and retaliation lawsuit. “As I’ve distanced myself form the firm, there’s been a corresponding decline,” he said.
He reiterated his belief in the danger of discriminating against the richest Americans, whom he said were also the nation’s leading job creators.
“Maybe you have to put up with a little techno-geek arrogance to get the results of those folks’ thinking,” he said in response to questions about whether San Francisco’s technology elite lived in a bubble. Lately, resentment toward that group has led to protests.
Perkins, now retired, backed companies including Genentech and Tandem Computers, and his firm has backed Amazon.com Inc, Google Inc and others. He grew up in a working-class family in White Plains, NY.
Editing by Stephen Coates