News & Politics

Tom Perkins Makes TV Appearance and Justifies His Infamous 'Kristallnacht' Remarks

The venture capitalist doubled down on his claim, saying that his World War II veteran friend would understand his comparison between Nazis and income inequality critics.

Photo Credit: Screenshot via Bloomberg TV

The overblown, tone-deaf letter venture capitalist Tom Perkins wrote for the Wall Street Journal, in which he compared anger at the rich to the Nazis carrying out Kristallnacht, sparked outrage.  ThenPerkins went on Bloomberg Television to explain himself--and essentially doubled down on his remarks.

Over the weekend, Perkins wrote, “I would call attention to the parallels of fascist Nazi Germany to its war on its ‘one percent,’ namely its Jews, to the progressive war on the American one percent, namely the ‘rich.’” He added: “This is a very dangerous drift in our American thinking. Kristallnacht was unthinkable in 1930; is its descendent ‘progressive’ radicalism unthinkable now?” Kristallnacht is the most famous anti-Jewish pogrom in history, when Nazi paramilitary forces attacked Jewish homes, synagogues and businesses, and killed dozens.  Perkins’ letter expressed anger at Occupy Wall Street and at demonstrators in San Francisco who protest Google’s commuter buses for employees.

Perkins doubled down on the analogy in comments made to Bloomberg News over the weekend.  “In the Nazi area it was racial demonization, now it is class demonization,” he said.

In the wake of the remarks, Perkins, the rich founder of the firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, went on television to explain himself.  He apologized--before saying that a World War II veteran friend of his would have understood what he was saying.  Perkins first said that he wrote to the Anti-Defamation League and said, “I deeply you and any who have mistaken my reference to Kristallnacht as a sign of overt or latent anti-Semitism.”

Then he said: “My late partner Eugene Kleiner fled Hitler from Austria and fought in the US Army...He was never comfortable with the extreme political currents in America and never took our freedom from demonization for granted. I believe that he would have understood my Wall Street Journal letter and would have agreed with the warning.”  

That wasn’t the only ridiculous remark Perkins made during the interview on Bloomberg TV.  “Let the rich do what the rich do, which is get richer,” Perkins said.  He also corrected people who said he was a billionaire.  “I’m not a billionaire, I’m a multi-millionaire.”

Host Emily Chang began to ask him about his “fancy yachts, fancy cars, an underwater submersible.” His response? To say that he had an “Airplane. Underwater airplane.”  


Alex Kane is former World editor at AlterNet. His work has appeared in Mondoweiss, Salon, VICE, the Los Angeles Review of Books and more. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

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