A leading African American member of Congress from Illinois condemned the Chicago Sun-Times for running an "over the top" column last month that compared black Republican voters to Jews who collaborated with the Nazis.
Democratic Rep. Danny Davis told the Washington Free Beacon on Tuesday that the piece by Sun-Times columnist Neil Steinberg was surprising, "inaccurate," and "over the top."
Steinberg’s piece sparked a row in the Jewish and black communities last month after Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn’s reelection campaign tweeted—and then quietly deleted—several messages praising the article and encouraging followers to read it.
"As a general rule, individuals will sell out the interests of their groups in return for personal benefit," Steinberg wrote in his April column, which claimed that Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner is buying off the black community and its leaders. "It isn’t just a black thing. Jews collaborated with the Nazis during World War II, helping them to round up their own people in the hopes they’d be the last to go."
Davis condemned the Steinberg piece during an interview just one day after he and other Democratic Illinois political leaders criticized Rauner for shaking hands with a man who was wearing a confederate flag patch on his jacket.
Davis and the other Illinois Democratic leaders, including Reps. Jan Schakowsky and Bobby Rush, have been criticized as hypocrites by some critics for calling out Rauner while remaining silent about the Quinn campaign’s recent support for Steinberg’s controversial column.
"Yesterday Danny Davis was attacking Bruce Rauner and today, when he gets called out for his hypocrisy, he is in retreat calling for peace in our time," said one Illinois-based political consultant.
Asked to comment on the issue Tuesday, Davis told the Free Beacon that the comparison of black conservatives to Jewish Nazi sympathizers went over the line and urged both the Quinn and Rauner campaigns to back away from "negative campaigning."
"I read Neil Steinberg’s piece and quite frankly it surprised me, that it went beyond my characterization of African Americans who are supporting Rauner." Davis said.
"I found it inaccurate in a sense," he added. "I thought it was a bit over the top."
"I certainly would not have made the statement that Neil made in his column," said Davis, characterizing the piece as going "to the Nth degree" to make a political point.
"It sounded like he was saying these individuals [black supporters of Rauner] were selling themselves, selling their souls," Davis said, later adding that "it was right for the Quinn campaign to make it known in whatever way they may have decided to make it known that these comments were not theirs and they were not necessarily in agreement with that level of commentary."
After facing a backlash over the tweets, a Quinn campaign spokesman said that staffers neglected to "thoroughly" read Steinberg’s piece before tweeting it.
"I don’t think raising or using any kind of race baiting or using any kind of historical circumstances and conditions" is appropriate for political candidates, Davis explained when asked if it could be seen as hypocritical to publicly criticize Rauner but remain silent about Quinn.
"I don’t want to see it either way," Davis said.
Sun-Times editor Jim Kirk did not respond to a Free Beacon request for comment on why he chose to cover the Rauner incident but not the fallout over the Quinn campaign’s controversial tweets.