Singer Tony Bennett Equates Isolated Gun Violence to Nazi Germany, Fears Foreign Invasion

Tony Bennett is one of America's most popular singers but he has proven once again that talent in the arts is no predictor of intelligence.

At a Wednesday press conference, the outspoken pacifist and ardent Democrat Bennett compared isolated gun deaths in the U.S. to Nazi concentration camps and said that if America did not do something to curtail violence in this country, the other countries would “take care of us in a really bad way,” just like they did in World War II to the Germans. Bizarre video and story below.

In a subsequent interview with CNN, Bennett declined to defend his comments but he did not distance himself from them either. Here’s what he said in full at the conference:

It’s the kind of turn that happened to the great country of Germany where Nazis came over and created tragic things and they had to be told off. And if we continue this kind of violence and accept it in our country, the rest of the world is really going to take care of us in a really bad way.

We should learn that we’re the greatest country because we’re all different nationalities, we’re all different religions, and we should show the rest of the world how to behave.

Tony Bennett is apparently unaware that the Nazi party was actually created in Germany and did not “come over” from some other country. He also is apparently unaware that gun control laws were one of the many restrictions placed upon citizens under Nazi domination.

Later in the day on the CNN show “The Situation Room,” Bennett was asked about his remarks and how he was potentially alienating many of his fans by being so anti-gun. Asked what message he had to people who like his music but who disagree with his position, he responded: “Well, that’s their ignorance.”

Toward the end of the discussion, host Wolf Blitzer meekly asked the singer about his offensive comparison of gun-rights advocates to Nazis:

“You served our country admirably, heroically in World War II and we’re grateful to you for that and I just want to play another clip from what you said up on Capitol Hill today because it brings back memories of World War II,” Blitzer said, firmly placing the softball on the tee.

Bennett’s son and manager, Danny, immediately interjected before his father could answer, doubling down on the service angle:

“Well, he fought in the Battle of the Bulge. He’s a war hero so that’s the reference.”

The singer could have left that remark well enough alone but he decided to continue the discussion, much to the apparent chagrin of his son who cleared his throat loudly before Bennett could speak.

“War is the lowest form of human behavior. Killing is the worst form of—” Bennett began before veering off into touchy-feely land as he referenced his recently published book, Life Is a Gift. “Life is a gift. We are blessed with being alive. We should enjoy it and enjoy our neighbors and help our cousins and relatives, our friends. One another, we should all help one another. It’s a gift. We have a gift with our life.”

One wonders what other offensive statement Bennett had in mind before he caught his son’s signal to pipe down.

danny-bennett-tony-bennett.jpgBe that as it may, Bennett’s reference to other countries having to defeat Nazi Germany is an interesting one since he has previously questioned whether or not it was even worth attacking Hitler. In a October 11, 2011 interview also on CNN, Bennett was decidedly noncommittal when asked whether the world was morally just in defending itself from Adolph Hitler’s regime:

That’s a very difficult question because I think we should have a society of highly educated, intelligent people that will think realistically about how to do things. When I said to you earlier that the lowest form of nature is to kill someone, it's the lowest form of humanity, that's the bottom of the line. So we’re actually intellectual cavemen at this point. No matter how much technical things we work out, we're still fighting. And it's my dream that some day we'll find out, everybody will learn that what a gift it is to be alive and how we should cherish one another and appreciate one another.

Bennett also feels the same way about the current American struggle against radical Islamic terrorist groups. In a September 2011 interview with radio host Howard Stern Bennett actually wondered “Who are the terrorists? Are we the terrorists or are they the terrorists?”

The illogic is enough to make one’s head spin: The rest of the world will invade America if it doesn’t pass gun control because we will be like the Nazis in creating violence. But such an action would be wrong because attacking Germany in World War II was not morally justified nor is attacking Islamic terrorist groups.

On what basis then are gun control laws, which must be enforced by armed government agents, morally correct?

A transcript of the conversation from the February 6 edition of The Situation Room follows:

WOLF BLITZER: All right. So you want to get involved in this fight. What do you exactly want to achieve?

TONY BENNETT: The assault weapons should be illegal in the United States. They should be—they were made for war and they should—and they don’t belong in our, in the citizens’ hands of our great country.

BLITZER: The hardest part of this whole fight—getting these assault-type weapons banned—might be a little bit easier expanding background checks or magazines, or if you will, the amount of bullets in a magazine. But the assault weapons, that’s an uphill struggle.

BENNETT: Yeah, well, it’s dangerous though. It’s very dangerous.

KATE BOLDUAN (CNN correspondent): A lot of people talk about wanting -- a lot of people may talk about wanting to get involved in an issue, but why -- what brings you and your father to Washington? Why did you want to get out so front and center on this issue?

DANNY BENNETT: Well, I was raised a pacifist. You know, Tony fought in World War II, at the Battle of the Bulge, liberated concentration camps, came back a pacifist, marched with Martin Luther King and Ed Solomon in 1965. A lot of people don’t know this. He doesn’t wear it on his sleeve. Feels that that’s the citizen’s responsibility. And we grew up with that dear to our heart.

This is a public safety issue for us. It’s not about taking away guns. It’s not a Second Amendment. It’s controlling the kind of guns that, again, an uphill battle, but what isn’t an uphill battle? Martin Luther King was an uphill battle. You have to -- you have to stand up.

Now is a time to act and the president’s stepping up, and we’re very proud of that. Mayor Bloomberg and those efforts. And we’re here to support that, however we can.

BOLDUAN: Mr. Bennett, you’ve seen music and Hollywood evolve over the time of your career. Do you think the music industry, Hollywood, is partially to blame for the gun violence we're seeing in this country? Glorifying gun violence?

BENNETT: You know, I really don’t because it’s interesting that Canada is a great neighbor to us and they really watch all of the television that we have in America. They watch all of it. So they see all of it and they don’t get into that—all these violent tragedies have happened in the United States. They watch it and they just realize ‘Well that’s films and magazines and all that kind of thing.’ But they don’t fly out of control like what’s happening in the United States.

BOLDUAN: What do you say to your fans then who say they love you, they love your music, they love your career but they really, they just don’t agree with you on this issue?

BENNETT: Well, that’s their ignorance.

DANNY BENNETT: Well it’s also their right.

BENNETT: Right.

DANNY BENNETT: And I think that’s something that’s important to say here that it’s their right to have their opinion and again, a lot of people step up about Hollywood and saying ‘mind your own business,’ well the highest office that somebody can attain under a republic is that of the citizen. It’s not, we forget this. And entertainers are people, too. We’re all citizens and I think it’s a responsibility of each citizen to raise their voice.

BLITZER: You served our country admirably, heroically in World War II and we’re grateful to you for that and I just want to play another clip from what you said up on Capitol Hill today because it brings back memories of World War II. I’ll play the clip and I’ll let you elaborate, explain what you meant.

BENNETT: OK.

BENNETT (earlier video): It’s the kind of turn that happened to the great country of Germany where Nazis came over and created tragic things and they had to be told off. And if we continue this kind of violence and accept it in our country, the rest of the world is really going to take care of us in a really bad way.

We should learn that we’re the greatest country because we’re all different nationalities, we’re all different religions, and we should show the rest of the world how to behave.

BLITZER: But the reference to the Nazis. What was that?

DANNY BENNETT: Well, he fought in the Battle of the Bulge. He’s a war hero so that’s the reference.

BLITZER: So the fact that he was obviously, dramatically influenced by World War II—

DANNY BENNETT: Exactly.

BLITZER: —and that’s still part of your life right now and you see some connection with your experience.

DANNY BENNETT: Violence, it has to be stopped.

BENNETT: War is—

(Danny Bennett clears throat prominently)

BENNETT: —the lowest form of human behavior. Killing is the worst form of—you know, I just finished writing a book, I’m not plugging it right now.

BLITZER: Life Is a Gift.

BENNETT: Life is a gift. We are blessed with being alive. We should enjoy it and enjoy our neighbors and help our cousins and relatives, our friends. One another, we should all help one another. It’s a gift. We have a gift with our life.

Matthew Sheffield
Matthew Sheffield
Matthew Sheffield, creator of NewsBusters and president of Dialog New Media, an internet marketing and design firm, left NewsBusters at the end of 2013