Minn. GOP chairman’s ‘quisling’ remark draws criticism from head of state Democrats

By Martiga Lohn, AP
Thursday, October 7, 2010

Minn. GOP chairman’s ‘quisling’ remark draws fire

ST. PAUL, Minn. — The head of the Minnesota GOP on Thursday said he didn’t intend a Nazi comparison when he used the word “quisling” to describe Republicans who are breaking with their party’s gubernatorial candidate.

Republican Party Chairman Tony Sutton elaborated on his comment a day earlier after his Democratic counterpart questioned his use of the arcane word linked to a Norwegian Nazi collaborator. Meanwhile, Independence Party gubernatorial candidate Tom Horner began using the remark to raise money.

In comments to The Associated Press on Wednesday, Sutton criticized a group of former Republican officials who have endorsed Horner’s third-party bid for governor, saying, “There’s a special place in hell for these quislings.”

The dictionary definition of “quisling” is a traitor. The word comes from the name of a Norwegian politician who collaborated with the Nazis and was executed for doing so.

On Thursday, Sutton told the AP he used the word as a common term for traitor.

“It would be like saying someone’s a Benedict Arnold,” Sutton said, referring to the Revolutionary War traitor. “To make it out to be something other than that would be ridiculous.”

Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party Chairman Brian Melendez said the comment signaled the GOP will deal harshly with those who don’t back party nominee Tom Emmer.

“I wonder what’s going on inside the Republican Party that Tony Sutton feels the need to send a message that you are going to hell and we liken you to Nazi sympathizers if you support Tom Horner,” Melendez said at the Capitol.

Horner supporters George Pillsbury and Bill Belanger, both former GOP state senators, weighed in with a letter to Sutton that noted their military service in two wars. “We would appreciate it if, in the future, you were more careful not to criticize American veterans just because you disagree with our choice of candidates,” they said.

Horner hopes to cash in on Sutton’s comment.

“Enough! When a charge like this is made, challenging these good public servants’ love of country and dedication to our state, how can the Republican party ever be part of a conversation to solve our problems and move Minnesota forward?” wrote Horner press secretary Matt Lewis in a fundraising appeal sent Thursday.

All sides have been on the lookout for inflammatory remarks. Sutton’s party jumped on Vice President Joe Biden’s remark Tuesday that he was going to “strangle” Republicans who lectured him about balancing the budget. Biden quickly added that he used the word as a figure of speech.

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