Venture capitalist Tom Perkins said he made a mistake using the word “Kristallnacht” when he compared critiquing inequality slanted in the wealthiest one percent of Americans’ favor to the treatment of Jews in Nazi Germany.
But Perkins also said he did not regret the point of his message, which came in a three-paragraph letter to the editor in The Wall Street Journal. He said “I don’t regret the message at all.”
“Yes, I talked to the head of the Anti-Defamation League, Abe Foxman, this morning following up on a letter I sent over the weekend apologizing for using the word Kristallnact,” Perkins said in an interview on Bloomberg TV Monday evening. “It was a terrible word to have chosen. I, like many, have tried to understand the 20th Century and the incomprehensible evil of the Holocaust. It can’t be explained. Even to try to explain it is wrong, it’s evil.”
Perkins said he used the word because he saw parallels to modern day and the Occupy Wall Street movement.
“I used the word because during the occupy of San Francisco by the Occupy Wall Street crowd, they broke the windows in the Wells Fargo bank, they marched up to our automobile strip on Van Ness Avenue and broke all the windows at the luxury car dealerships and I saw that, I remember that, the police just stood by frozen and I thought ‘well, this is how Kristallnacht began so that word was in my mind,” Perkins said.
Perkins was then asked what he was “going for” with the Wall Street Journal letter.
“The Jews are only one percent of the German population,” Perkins said. “Most Germans had never met a Jew and yet Hitler was able to demonize a Jew and Kristallnacht was one of the earlier manifestations but there’d been others before it and of course we know about the evil of the holocaust. I guess my point was that when you start to use hatred against a minority, it can get out of control. I think that was my thought.”
Perkin’s letter was strongly criticized including from the venture capital firm he cofounded. In a tweet, Kleiner Perkins, Caulfield & Byers said “We were shocked by his views expressed today in the WSJ and do not agree.”
“And now that, as a messenger I’ve been thoroughly killed by everybody, at least read the message,” Perkins said.
Perkins also pushed back on the idea that the wealthiest Americans are at all responsible for the national economic problems in the United States.
“But the one percent are not causing the inequality,” Perkins said. “They are the job creators. I mean Silicon Valley —I think Kleiner Perkins has created pretty close to a million jobs and we’re still doing it. It’s absurd to demonize the rich for being rich and doing what the rich do which is getting richer by creating opportunity for others.”
Watch the interview below: