Leaders address antisemitic comments from Ky. lawmakers again

Leaders address antisemitic comments from Ky. lawmakers again
Published: Mar. 3, 2022 at 10:55 PM EST
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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WKYT) - For the second time in a week, a Lexington rabbi is meeting with a Kentucky lawmaker accused of making antisemitic remarks.

Republican Representative Danny Bentley tells WKYT he meant absolutely no harm in the comments he made on the House floor on Wednesday when he falsely linked medical abortions to the Holocaust.

He also commented on the sexual habits of Jewish women.

Rabbi Shlomo Litvin met with Rep. Bentley, just as he did last week with Representative Walker Thomas and Senator Rick Girdler after they made offensive remarks. Rabbi Litvin said there is an obvious need for more education.

“It feels like another strike after another strike,” Rabbi Litvin said.

From an antisemitic email sent to lawmakers, to now two incidents of remarks made during legislative discussions, Rabbi Litvin said it’s time for deeper conversations on offensive language.

“It pains me when you search Jerusalem post headline, Kentucky, or Jewish news headline Kentucky, you see headline after headline of someone who represents the commonwealth saying these comments,” Litvin said.

During a tense House debate Wednesday on an abortion bill, Rep. Bentley made what the Kentucky Jewish Council calls “bizarre” comments, tying an abortion pill to the poison Nazis used in gas chambers.

“That really moved us into a new category of inappropriate behavior,” said Dr. Stephen Voss, a UK political science associate professor.

Dr. Voss said the comparison by Rep. Bentley and statements last week from other lawmakers show a lack of diversity in parts of Kentucky, and understanding of what isn’t okay to say in today’s society.

“It’s maybe a sign that some of our legislators don’t have a lot of worldly experience, and need a little better training in what you should or shouldn’t say,” Dr. Voss said.

On Thursday, Rabbi Litvin met with Bentley and explained the sensitivity of his comments.

“I explained to him how each point he brought up, the harm it causes. How bringing up the Holocaust in this debate is wildly inappropriate. How calling out certain people as Jews or describing beliefs of Jewish people as whole causes harm to the community,” Rabbi Litvin said.

In a statement to WKYT, Bentley said he stands with the Jewish community against hatred, adding, “My intention was to speak as a pharmacist to the history of RU-486, and respond to a proposed amendment. I clearly should have been more sensitive with my comments.”

Rabbi Litvin said the Kentucky Jewish Council is working with House and Senate leaders on providing education to lawmakers in the coming weeks.

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