Virginia Pol Runs Hitler Ad

Republican gubernatorial candidate Jerry Kilgore, right, shakes the hand of Democratic challenger Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine, after a televised debate in Richmond, Va., Sunday, Oct. 9. 2005. (AP Photo//Bob Brown, Pool)
Campaign ads by Republican gubernatorial candidate Jerry Kilgore that claim Democrat Tim Kaine is so averse to the death penalty that he would spare even Hitler from execution trivialize the Holocaust and should be withdrawn, Jewish leaders said Friday.

"Mr. Kilgore's willingness to exploit the pain of a group of people like the Jews for his own political gain indicates to me he's willing to do just about anything to get elected," said Rabbi Jack Moline of Agudas Achim Congregation in Alexandria.

To sharpen his attack on Kaine's faith-based objection to capital punishment, Kilgore aired ads this week that feature two relatives of murder victims who tearfully recount the crimes that killed their loved ones and say they don't trust Kaine to carry out death sentences.

In a Kilgore radio ad and a 60-second television spot, one of the relatives, death penalty proponent Stanley Rosenbluth, looks mournfully into the camera and says: "Tim Kaine says Adolf Hitler doesn't qualify for the death penalty. This was one of the worst mass murderers in modern times."

The ad cites a Richmond Times-Dispatch column that said that during an interview with a panel of the newspaper's reporters, Kaine "suggested he would not favor sending even Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin or Idi Amin to the gallows."

Kilgore spokesman Tim Murtaugh defended the ads and said that Rosenbluth spoke from his heart. Kaine helped handle the death row appeal of Mark Arlo Sheppard, the man convicted and executed in 1999 for the murder of Rosenbluth's son and daughter-in-law. Rosenbluth criticizes Kaine, a former criminal defense lawyer, for defending convicted killers.

"Those are Mr. Rosenbluth's sentiments and these thoughts are those that Mr. Rosenbluth freely expressed and they are thoughts that we appreciate," Murtaugh said.

U.S. Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va. and the highest-ranking Jewish member of Congress, sought to blunt criticism of the ad in a late afternoon conference call with reporters.