Rich Iott, the Tea Party-supported GOP nominee for Congress in Ohio's 9th District, is part of a group that likes to don German Waffen SS uniforms and participate Nazi re-enactments, Atlantic journalist Josh Green revealed on "Real Time with Bill Maher."
The group, called Wiking, acts out exploits from the 5th SS Panzer Division Wiking, an actual Nazi division, which fought on the Eastern Front during World War II .
Iott, who confirms his involvement with the group, denies any belief in the principles of Nazism.
"It's purely historical interest in World War II," he told The Atlantic.
Iott can't remember when he joined the group, although his name appears on a group roster from 2003. He says he participated in the group with his son "as a father-son bonding thing."
While Iott neglects to address Jewish voters he might have offended, he does address veterans in an e-mail to the Atlantic: "Never, in any of my reenacting of military history, have I meant any disrespect to anyone who served in our military or anyone who has been affected by the tragedy of war. In fact, I have immense respect for veterans who served our country valiantly, and my respect of the military and our veterans is one of the reasons I have actively studied military history throughout my life."
Incidentally, there is no longer any mention of Iott (also a member of the NRCC's Young Guns Program) on the Wiking website, and all photographs of the Congressional candidate have been removed (although some are still viewable on the Internet Archive).
At left: Iott (center), who is labeled under his pseudonym "Reinhardt," is pictured at the ReenactorFest at the Sheraton Hotel in Chicago in 2006. The photo caption says the reenactors are pictured with "Herr Schneider, a REAL Vet of 5.SS 'Wiking'!"