Rich Iott Mulls a Comeback

The GOP House candidate with a passion for dressing up like a Nazi may soon be returning to the front lines.

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Everybody remembers Rich Iott, right? Last fall, he was the Republican nominee for Ohio's 9th congressional district, and a Tea Party favorite, who ran into a bit of trouble that I wrote about ("Why is This GOP House Candidate Dressed as a Nazi?"). Turned out, Iott's hobby was donning a Waffen SS officer's uniform and re-enacting World War II battles, presumably minus the atrocities. He even had a German alter ego named "Reinhard Pferdmann," and shot elaborate war videos with his confederates. Needless to say, this became a rather serious political liability. Iott was roundly condemned by incredulous historians, abandoned by the Republican Party, and went on to suffer an inglorious defeat. Most people, myself included, assumed we had heard the last of him.

Well, maybe not. Yesterday, I received an email from an amateur historian named Richard F. Mehlinger, who had written a thoughtful article on the perils of historical re-enacting that centered on Iott's example. Over the weekend, in a long, angry response to that article, Rich Iott (at least someone claiming to be Iott and using his email address), unburdened himself of what he calls "the rest of the story," lashing out at yours truly; at his Democratic opponent, Marcy Kaptur ("a vicious, lying woman"); proclaiming his chummy approval from Northwest Ohio's "head Rabbi"; and generally trying to explain away the shellacking he took.


But here's what jumped out at me: Iott also revealed that he is thinking about running again. So for those interested in keeping up with the latest chapter in this strange saga, here is the entire missive:

Hello, this is Rich Iott. Your analysis was very good. Let me share with you some things that you don't know.

First, the story was a hit piece planned by the Ohio Demoncratic Party. The reporter at the Atlantic was just a cover to create plausible deniability.  The reporter called my office two days before the story broke to ask if that was, indeed, me in the picture. I said yes, I have been a reenactor for 40 years, having done most Civil War (both sides) but also WWI American, WWII American and German. I sent him photos of ALL of those periods, including photos of my son and I doing Civil War.  He obviously ony ran with the SS story.

The story broke on Saturday, and on Tuesday I had a meeting with the head Rabbi here in NW Ohio. His first words to me were "So what's the big deal? Reenacting - I get it!" In reality, the only people who were offended or appalled were those who wouldn't have voted for me anyway.

This is +10 Democratic district. My opponent was the longest seated woman in the House of Representatives (yet she has never even chaired a committee!). To defeat her would have been one of the biggest upsets in the nation. I carried 42% of the vote! That was the best performance by any Republican in any +10 Democratic district in the county! We did polling on the issue three days after the story broke and the day following the election. The results were identical: 60% of likely voters didn't care, they saw it as political mud; 20% said it made them MORE likely to vote for me and 20% said it made them less likely. Bottom line, it made no difference whatsoever.  What all of the media hype DID do was to dramatically increase my online donations from across the country!

Will I run again? It depends. Ohio is losing two congressional districts this fall and in the redistricting, I will likely end up living in Republican district. Naturally, I would not try to challenge a good, incumbent Republican.

I feel that my campaign was a success. Across the state and across the country, I was part of the winning team. We lost the battle in my district but we won the war. So I am fine with it. I also brought out a side of my opponent which many people have never seen: a vicious, lying woman.  Her campaign also blasted me for my business background, claiming that I ran my company into the ground, sold it and took the money and ran, costing 5,000 people their jobs. After some fact checking, even the liberal local newspaper ran a front page story that said it was entirely false. The last five years while I was CEO were the company's best years in sales and profits; when we merged with another company, I didn't get a buyout or golden parachute, I got exactly the same severance as anyone else, and the new company didn't begin to fail until three years after I had left.  FactCheck.org also came to the same conclusion.  Later, at our first televised debate, the moderator asked her if, in light of these findings, did she still stand by her statments about my business career. She replied "Absolutely." And thee press gave her a total pass on that.

I hope you enjoyed hearing "the rest of the story"!

Rich

For the record, I should respond to a couple things. First, the bit about the Ohio Democratic Party is false. I've never communicated with anyone there. Second, Iott did indeed send me other photos--lots and lots and lots of them. They were not germane to the issue, which was and remains  -- as Iott surely knows -- that his hobby and passion was dressing up like a Nazi! Rich, sending me 30 pictures of you and your kid grinning as Doughboys or Confederate regulars doesn't make the Nazi thing go away. You could have dressed up like Little Bo Peep and you'd still have had the same problem (although I'd have published that one). But let's not dwell on the past. I bear no ill will, and think I can speak for all my colleagues in the press, and my good readers, when I say that we would welcome you back to national politics in heartbeat. Do give it some thought.



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Joshua Green is a former senior editor at The Atlantic.

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