Updated Mar 31, 2024 - Politics & Policy

GOP lawmaker under fire for saying Gaza should be handled "like Hiroshima"

Rep. Tim Walberg, wearing a dark gray suit, light blue shirt, multicolored tie and glasses.

Rep. Tim Walberg. Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images.

Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Mich.) is facing backlash from Democratic colleagues for saying at a town hall that the Israel-Hamas war should be handled "like Nagaski and Hiroshima."

Why it matters: It's part of a trend of Republicans generally voicing disregard for the humanitarian situation in Gaza — and underscores the difficulty Democrats face in securing aid to the region.

Driving the news: Walberg said at a town hall that the U.S. "shouldn't be spending a dime on humanitarian aid" to Gaza, according to video posted to social media.

  • "It should be like Nagasaki and Hiroshima — get it over quick," he added, referring to the Japanese cities upon which the U.S. dropped atomic bombs in 1945.

What he's saying: In a statement on Sunday, Walberg denied that he was calling for the use of nuclear weapons and said he "used a metaphor to convey the need for both Israel and Ukraine to win their wars as swiftly as possible."

  • Walberg said the clip was "shortened" in a way that "distorted" his message. In a transcript and video provided to Axios, Walberg continued, "Get it over quick. The same should be in Ukraine. Defeat Putin quick."
  • In a subsequent statement to Axios, Walberg said: "For those who've read my full answer, not just a shortened clip or headline, it is apparent that I was talking about military aid and full-scale assaults conducted by both Israel and Ukraine to quickly win their respective wars."
  • "For any members who want additional context or have concerns, I encourage them to reach out to me," he added.

The other side: "I don't care how much he tries to walk back the statement, it's clear what he meant," Rep. Susan Wild (D-Pa.) told Axios.

  • Wild called the comment "despicable," adding, "no member of Congress should ever joke about a nuclear bomb, and it shows an utter disregard for the lives of the Palestinians, not to mention the proximity of Israel to Gaza."
  • Rep. Becca Balint (D-Vt.) called the remark "absolutely disgusting and horrifying."
  • "The GOP extremists in our country are eerily similar to the extremists in the Netanyahu government like [Bezalel] Smotrich and [Itamar] Ben-Gvir," she said, referring to two far-right Israeli government ministers. "They don't want peace for Israelis and for Palestinians."

Zoom out: Walberg's dismissal of humanitarian aid to Gaza is representative of the overwhelming consensus among Republicans in Congress.

  • GOP lawmakers have also criticized the Biden administration's efforts get aid into Gaza.
  • Several Republicans have been on tape in recent months dismissing Palestinian human rights: Rep. Brian Mast (R-Fla.) said babies killed in Gaza "are not innocent Palestinian civilians," and Rep. Andy Ogles (R-Tenn.) declared "kill them all."
  • Ogles' office later said he was referring to Hamas, not all Palestinians, while Mast's said his statement was taken out of context.

This article has been updated to include Walberg's addition statement and the fact that transcript and audio of his full answer were reviewed by Axios.

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