Ohio Congressional candidate Rich Iott got grilled by Anderson Cooper last night on his rather unusual hobby of dressing up as a member of the 5th SS Wiking Panzer Division, a unit in the German army during World War II.
Iott defended the members of the unit, who he said “wanted to fight what they saw as a bigger threat to them than Germany,” so they joined up with the Nazis to fight the eastern front of the war against Soviet forces. “I don’t think we can sit here and judge that today. We weren’t there the time they made those decisions,” he said.
Iott called “what happened in Germany during the second World War one of “the low points in human history,” but defended the Wiking Division when Cooper referred to them 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.”
Iott also contended that “this particular unit was one that was never charged with war crimes,” though Cooper pointed out that one member was recently charged with the murder of 58 Jews. Iott replied: “The war on the eastern front was extremely brutal on both sides. Nobody was lily-white, that’s for sure. Horrible things that happened on both sides.”
Cooper also asked about the reenators’ website, which he said describes members of the Wiking unit as “valiant men.” He asked Iott if he believed these were “valiant men.”
“I think that they thought they were fighting for their homeland,” Iott said. When pressed further, he replied: “I don’t think we can sit here and judge that today. We weren’t there the time they made those decisions.”
Iott has been scrubbed from the Young Guns website since revelations about his reenacting surfaced, and House Minority Whip Eric Cantor withdrew his support from Iott, saying he “would absolutely repudiate that and do not support an individual that would do something like that.” Iott responded by slamming Cantor, even comparing him to Democrats.