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Michigan GOP congressman suggests nuking Gaza, ending humanitarian aid

Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Mich., looks on during a news conference outside the U.S. Capitol on May 19, 2021, in Washington, D.C. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images/TNS)  (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images North America/TNS)
By Melissa Nann Burke Detroit News

DETROIT – Michigan U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg suggested that nuclear weapons should be dropped on Gaza, which his office said was a metaphor to “support Israel’s swift elimination of Hamas.”

“It should be like Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Get it over quick,” Walberg says in a video circulating on social media, referencing the Japanese cities that the U.S. dropped atomic bombs on at the end of World War II.

Walberg, a Republican from Lenawee County, also is heard in the video speaking out against humanitarian aid for those in the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian territory on the brink of famine after more than five months of Israel’s war against Hamas, the militant group that set off the conflict with its Oct. 7 attack on Israeli citizens, killing 1,200 and taking 240 hostages.

“We shouldn’t be spending a dime on humanitarian aid,” Walberg said.

Walberg spokesman Mike Rorke said Saturday the eight-term congressman’s answer was in direct response to a question about American troops being deployed into Gaza to build a port to send aid to Palestinians.

“Congressman Walberg vehemently disagrees with putting our troops in harm’s way. He has great empathy for the innocent people in Gaza who have been thrust into this situation due to the attack carried out by Hamas leaving 1,163 innocent civilians dead,” Rorke said. “To this day, Hamas still is holding hostages, including Americans. Hamas should surrender and return the hostages.”

“During his community gathering, he clearly uses a metaphor to support Israel’s swift elimination of Hamas, which is the best chance to save lives long-term and the only hope at achieving a permanent peace in the region,” Rorke added.

The video on social media is dated Monday and says Walberg made the comments in Dundee.

Walberg represents the 5th Congressional District in southern Michigan, stretching from Berrien to Monroe counties.

Walberg’s public calendar shows he had a “community gathering to meet with constituents” on Monday morning at the Dundee village hall.

The video was posted on X by the account@WhitchMI, whose user wrote, “A sitting US Rep in a secret town hall feels comfortable musing positively about genocide.”

Speaking to a group of people in the video, Walberg appears to be responding to a question about the U.S. spending its tax dollars to build a port off the coast of Gaza to more quickly deliver humanitarian aid – an initiative President Joe Biden announced in his State of the Union address earlier this month.

The U.N. food agency warned this month that famine is “imminent” in northern Gaza, where more than two-thirds of the remaining population is experiencing catastrophic hunger amid Israel’s ongoing war against Hamas. Humanitarian groups have said a port on Mediterranean Sea is needed because Israel has blocked land routes into Gaza for food, medicine and other supplies.

One of Walberg’s House colleagues, Democratic U.S. Rep. Haley Stevens of Birmingham, criticized Walberg’s remarks without using his name Saturday in a post on X, formerly Twitter.

“Threatening to use, suggesting the use of, or, God forbid actually using nuclear weapons, are unacceptable tactics of war in the 21st Century,” wrote Stevens, a strong supporter of Israel. “As W.J. Hennigan recently & accurately described for the NYT, the use of nuclear weapons creates hell on earth.”

U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Mich., also condemned the remarks from Walberg, a former pastor.

“This is a reprehensible thing for anyone to suggest, especially an elected official and someone who considers himself a man of faith,” Slotkin said in a statement. “Rep. Walberg should take back his comments, and try to put himself in the shoes of the many Michiganders who see themselves in the casualties in Gaza.”

Michigan state Sen. Darrin Camilleri, D-Trenton, tweeted that Walberg had been caught on video “endorsing and calling for a complete genocide in Gaza.”

“He’s an absolute disgrace and needs to resign,” Camilleri said.

The Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations also weighed in, saying “this clear call to genocide by a member of Congress should be condemned by all Americans who value human life and international law.”

“To so casually call for what would result in the killing of every human being in Gaza sends the chilling message that Palestinian lives have no value,” CAIR Executive Director Dawud Walid said.

“It is this dehumanization of the Palestinian people that has resulted in the ongoing slaughter and suffering we see every day in Gaza and the West Bank.”

U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Mich., called Walberg’s comments horrific and shocking.”

“It is an indefensible position to argue against humanitarian relief for the people of Gaza while also calling for the wholesale massacre of the Palestinian people,” Kildee said in a statement. “I could not disagree more with these extreme and dangerous comments.”

Walberg also faced backlash in January after he told Ugandans to “stand firm” and not heed criticism from the United States in an appearance that Democrats say was an endorsement of the country’s severe anti-LGBTQ+ law.