Jewish Lawmakers Upbraid Colleague, But Their Letter Goes Unanswered

Del. Daniel L. Cox (R-Frederick) speaks on the House floor during debate on a mental health care bill. Screen shot.

A Maryland lawmaker whose floor speech on a mental health bill included controversial references to the Holocaust may be ignoring a letter of protest sent by his Jewish colleagues in the General Assembly.

The April 9 letter demanded an apology from Del. Daniel L. Cox (R-Frederick).

The 18 Jewish legislators who signed the letter also offered to arrange a tour of the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., for him.

Their letter was sent one day after Cox appeared to conflate a mental health bill with World War II-era atrocities against the Jewish people.

The measure, House Bill 132, would have lowered the age of consent for minors to seek care for certain mental health services without parental permission to as young as 12.

Bill opponents argued that the legislation interfered with parental rights and put children at risk.

Speaking on the House floor with a mask that depicted the Nuremberg Trials, which he referenced, Cox spoke of the need to guarantee “that never again will the state and the health care community interfere with the rights of parents and the right to family.”

“And that’s what this bill does,” he claimed.

In their letter, the lawmakers called Cox’s remarks “deeply hurtful to our community, as well as to all of those who are familiar with the atrocities committed by the Nazi regime during the Holocaust.”

“Equating HB132 with the mass murder committed during the Holocaust would be laughable if it weren’t painful and deeply offensive,” they added.

“The horrors inflicted upon Jewish children in concentration camps were not due to a lack of ‘parental rights,’ nor was it by any conceivable stretch under the guise of health treatment. To indicate that the mass torture and murder of over a million children during the Holocaust was due to anything but religious persecution is ignorant at best, and anti-Semitism at worst.”

During a second set of remarks on the House floor on April 8, Cox cited his “respect” for the Jewish faith, though he did not explicitly apologize.

The letter from the legislators — all Democrats — urged Cox to apologize for his “ignorant and offensive words.” They also offered to arrange for him to take a tour of the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., “to help advance your education and sensitivity of this slaughter.”

The letter, a copy of which was sent to Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City) and House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones (D-Baltimore County), was signed by Sens. Brian J. Feldman (Montgomery), Shelly L. Hettleman (Baltimore County), Cheryl C. Kagan (Montgomery), Benjamin F. Kramer (Montgomery), Paul G. Pinsky (Prince George’s), Jeffrey D. Waldstreicher (Montgomery), Craig J. Zucker (Montgomery) and Dels. Dalya Attar (Baltimore City), Jon S. Cardin (Baltimore County), Anne R. Kaiser (Montgomery), Ariana B. Kelly (Montgomery), Marc Korman (Montgomery), Shane M. Pendergrass (Howard), Kirill Reznik (Montgomery), Samuel I. Rosenberg (Baltimore City), Jared Solomon (Montgomery), Dana L. Stein (Baltimore County) and Karen Lewis Young (Frederick).

As of Monday afternoon, the legislators had not received a reply from Cox, one of them told Maryland Matters. Cox did not respond to an email sent to his office or a message sent via Facebook.

On April 16, Cox posted on Facebook: “Just donated to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum. Join me in remembrance and support.”

He also shared a post from the Auschwitz Memorial marking the 74th anniversary of the execution of Rudolf Höss, the founder and the first commandant of the Auschwitz concentration and extermination camp.

Cox added the phrase: “We remember. #neveragain.”

HB 132 passed the House on a largely party line vote. It passed the Senate Finance committee 8-3, but it did not receive a floor vote. However, the Senate equivalent, SB 41, did make it through both chambers and to the governor’s desk.

Hannah Gaskill contributed to this report.

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Bruce DePuyt
Bruce DePuyt spent nearly three decades on local television, including 14 years as executive producer and host of News Talk on NewsChannel 8 in the Washington, D.C., area. He has served as reporter, anchor and producer/host of 21 This Week in Montgomery County and as reporter/anchor at NBC affiliate WVIR-TV in Charlottesville, VA. He's a regular contributor to WTOP (103.5 FM) and frequently moderates community and political events.