Smith apologizes for comparing vaccinated Albertans to followers of Hitler
Danielle Smith is apologizing for "any offensive language" she used in her previous career as a talk-show host and podcaster while comparing vaccinated Albertans with followers of Adolf Hitler in Nazi Germany.
"As everyone knows, I was against the use of vaccine mandates during COVID," a statement from the United Conservative Party leader and premier read.
"However, the horrors of the Holocaust are without precedent, and no one should make any modern-day comparisons that minimize the experience of the Holocaust and suffering under Hitler, nor the sacrifice of our veterans. I have always been and remain a friend to the Jewish community, Israel and our veterans, and I apologize for any offensive language used regarding this issue made while on talk radio or podcasts during my previous career."
Smith says COVID-19 was a divisive issue and hopes it is behind everyone.
"I would hope we can all move on to talk about issues that currently matter to Albertans and their families," Smith said.
The comments in question come from a Nov. 10, 2021 video circulated on social media Sunday.
The interview conducted with Integrated Wealth Management, during a segment called Essential Human Needs -- Energy, Free Speech, Functioning Health Care and Honest Politicians, showed Smith referencing the Netflix documentary How to Become a Tyrant, which illustrates how Hitler convinced people to fall in line.
"It starts with Hitler in the first episode, and it's absolutely appalling and shocking," Smith in the interview.
"One academic says -- they must have filmed this before COVID -- that so many people say that they would not have succumbed to the charms of a tyrant, somebody telling them that they have all the answers, and he said, 'I guarantee you would.'"
Smith then goes on to say those who were vaccinated in Alberta listened to their governments.
"That's the test here, is we've seen it. We have 75 per cent of the public who say, not only hit me, but hit me harder, and keep me away from those dirty unvaxxed," Smith said.
Smith herself admits she was vaccinated with the Johnson & Johnson one-dose vaccine in Arizona.
When asked if she would consider herself a follower of Hitler, she referred back to her statement.
Since becoming premier in October, Smith has been dogged by past statements, including saying people are responsible for contracting their own early-stage cancer and that the COVID unvaccinated have faced the most discrimination of any group she has seen in her lifetime.
In Smith's comments from the Nov. 10, 2021 interview, she points out she is not wearing a poppy because of the actions of politicians during the pandemic.
"They ruined it for me this year … the political leaders standing on their soapbox? Pretending they understand the sacrifice and not understanding that their actions are exactly the actions that our brave men and women in uniform are fighting against," Smith said in the video.
Smith then moves on to compare those who received COVID vaccinations to those in Hitler's Germany who "succumbed to the charms of a tyrant, somebody telling them that they have all the answers."
Calgary's Jewish community reacted to the video on Monday.
"We are aware of the 2021 podcast that has resurfaced," Calgary's Jewish Federation said in a statement.
"In today's campaign climate, it is important that our community is not used as a wedge between political parties and with this, we will not be commenting further on this issue at this time."
B'nai Brith Canada also tweeted a response, saying its position remains clear.
"There is no justification for politicians to make contemporaneous comparisons to the Nazi regime," the tweet read.
"Our leaders must do better."
The Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre, a Canadian Jewish human rights organization, says Smith's apology "doesn't fix the harm caused."
"Holocaust comparisons are inappropriate, disrespectful to the victims and minimize one of the darkest times in human history - which the Jewish community has been outspoken about since the start of the pandemic," the organization said of the comments.
Peter Woolstencroft, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Waterloo, says he expects to see more old comments from Smith resurface throughout the campaign.
"What do you do when the leader says things that are clearly outside the margins of legitimate political discourse?" Woolstencroft said.
"She likes talking, and there's a lot of stuff in her past that's going to come back to haunt her and the party."
Notley calls the Nazi comments "utterly horrifying."
"Some comments demonstrate a set of values which no level of apology can ever make up for," Notley said.
"The UCP has some work to do to decide whether she should be leading them."
With Files From The Canadian Press