CHARLOTTE, North Carolina (Reuters) - A top California Democratic Party official on Monday compared Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan to Nazi Germany’s infamous propagandist Joseph Goebbels, drawing rebukes from both parties the day before the Democratic Party’s nominating convention formally begins.
In a story reported Monday by the San Francisco Chronicle, California Democratic Party Chairman John Burton was quoted as comparing distortions Ryan made in campaign speeches to lies used by Goebbels, a fierce anti-Semite and one of Adolf Hitler’s closest cohorts.
“They lie and they don’t care if people think they lie,” Burton reportedly said, referring to Republicans broadly, at a breakfast on Monday with Charlotte delegates.
Ryan told “a bold-faced lie and he doesn’t care that it was a lie. That was Goebbels, the big lie,” Burton told reporters from the Chronicle and CBS News.
Republicans pounced on Burton’s remarks.
“President Obama promised to lift up American politics. Unfortunately, some of his supporters, by employing rhetoric that has no place in our political system, are bringing it down to the gutter,” said former Minnesota congressman Norm Coleman, who works on Jewish voter outreach for the Romney campaign.
“All people of good will should repudiate such disgraceful words,” Coleman said in statement.
Burton’s analogy drew fire from an Obama campaign spokesman after an opening press conference for the Democratic National Convention, in which Democrats will formally adopt their policy platform and nominate President Barack Obama to run for a second term and fend off the challenge from Mitt Romney in November’s election.
“That obviously doesn’t reflect the views of the campaign,” said Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt. “That doesn’t have any place in the political discourse in Charlotte.”
Democrats have cried foul over comments Ryan made recently, including those in his speech at the Republican National Convention last week, suggesting that Obama’s signature healthcare overhaul guts billions from the government healthcare program for the elderly, known as Medicare.
The plan aims for cost savings by lowering reimbursements to hospitals and insurers and eliminating waste, Democrats say, quick to point out that these savings have been included in Ryan’s own budget proposals.
LaBolt did not comment on whether Burton should step down from his position in California, a liberal stronghold and a huge source of campaign cash for Obama.
The Nazis have no place in current political debates, said Matthew Brooks, Executive Director of the Republican Jewish Coalition.
“Apparently the offense such remarks cause to Holocaust survivors and their families are of less concern to him than the prospect of partisan gain,” Brooks said in a statement.
Burton has been known to make unfiltered comments on a range of topics.
He recently suggested Chris Christie, the Republican governor of New Jersey who has for years battled a weight problem, spend less time concerned about California and more time concerned about his health.
“Christie’s time would be better spent taking up first lady Michelle Obama’s White House Fitness Challenge than bashing our great state,” Burton said in a statement on the California Democratic Party’s website.
Burton did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Reporting By Eric Johnson; Editing by Alden Bentley