By Times Staff and wire reports | Wednesday, April 23, 2008 |
Tony Zirkle, who is seeking the Republican nomination in Indiana's 2nd District, stood in front of a painting of Hitler, next to people wearing swastika armbands and with a swastika flag in the background for the speech to the American National Socialist Workers Party in Chicago on Sunday.
"I'll speak before any group that invites me," Zirkle said Monday. "I've spoken on an African-American radio station in Atlanta."
The 2nd Congressional District includes a large portion of north central Indiana spanning from South Bend to Kokomo. It includes Pine and Jackson Townships in Porter County and parts of Washington Township, which includes the eastern edges of the Valparaiso.
It is currently served by Democrat U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly.
Porter County Republican chairman Chuck Williams on Tuesday denounced Zirkle's appearance at the gathering.
"He certainly doesn't hold the view of the of the Republican Party," Williams said. "I don't know why you would stand up in front of a picture of Adolf Hitler when millions of Americans fought against that kind of oppression."
Zirkle compared his speech to other politicians appearing at Bob Jones University.
George W. Bush, then a candidate for president, was criticized eight years ago for speaking at the South Carolina school, which teaches students that Catholicism is a cult. Also at the time of the speech, the school banned interracial dating, a policy that has since been dropped.
Zirkle said he did not know much about the neo-Nazi group and that his intention was to talk on his concern about "the targeting of young white women and for pornography and prostitution."
Zirkle will face John Frame and Joseph Roush, in addition to Puckett, in the May 6 primary.
The event was not the first time Zirkle has raised controversy on race issues. In March, Zirkle raised the idea of segregating races in separate states. Zirkle said Tuesday he's not advocating segregation, but said desegregation has been a failure.
Zirkle received 30 percent of the vote in the 2006 primary, losing to incumbent Chris Chocola, who was defeated in the general election. Zirkle said Tuesday that winning the election is not his primary goal.
"My primary purpose is to educate and inform," he said.