It’s a safe bet that when Portland, Oregon-based businessman Scott “Big Daddy” Edwards started Republican Party Animals (RPA) in January of 2009, Holocaust denial was the furthest thing from his mind.
The goal of his organization was to put the “party” back in Grand Old Party, to remind Republicans that among their constitutional guarantees is the right to have a good time. To this end, the Party Animals hosted mixers, happy hours, and events in Portland, Las Vegas, and Washington, D.C.
Edwards finds the events of the last few weeks infuriating, to say the least.
“I’m out thousands of dollars!” he complained to me Monday. And for what? Press reports have said that somebody else founded his organization, implied that person did so as a way to cover over his past as a Holocaust denier, and smeared all of the Party Animals by association.
“That person” is notorious Holocaust denier David Cole, but he used a different name when he contacted Edwards via Facebook a few months after the RPA was founded. One David Stein represented himself as a documentary producer in Los Angeles. He inquired if he could help Edwards throw some events for the Republicans of Southern California’s sprawling entertainment industry.
Edwards thought that was a great idea. He used both his organization and his own money to make it happen. There were some successes — the RPA hosted events with Larry Elder, among others — but Stein became a constant problem. “He’s a con artist and a sociopath,” Edwards says of Stein.
Edwards was suspicious that Stein used money that he (Edwards) shelled out and reported the events operated at losses because he had to pay people. When Edwards got wind that some of those purportedly paid people were actually volunteers, he confronted Stein. Edwards officially expelled him from the group after the CPAC revelry of 2012.
The two had an epic falling out. There were smear campaigns, copyright claims and threats of lawsuits. Edwards quietly warned L.A.’s Party Animals that they should steer clear of Stein. They would understandably go to Stein to get his side of the story and he managed to win some of them over, albeit temporarily. Stein continued to “host” some events (according to Edwards, he would actually buy tickets to other events) and represent them as Party Animal pow wows.
That’s all over now. “A lot of people have apologized to me,” said Edwards of the fallout from the recent revelation that David Stein was in fact David Cole.
What happened was that, quite by accident, some Party Animals discovered old YouTube clips of Cole debating the finer points of Holocaust fantasia on such shows as “Donahue,” and thought, you know, this guys looks remarkably like David Stein…
Cole had been one of the new breed of Holocaust denialists, called revisionists, who tried to accommodate the damning, massive accumulated historical evidence to create a new, poisonous synthesis. Sure, Cole and company argued, a lot of Jews died in German camps during World War II, but so did a lot of other people of various ethnicities, and the numbers are exaggerated by our modern “Holocaust industry.”
According to Holocaust revisionists, the Semitic death toll wasn’t 6 million, it was more like 3 or 4 million and, given the death toll of the war, that was hardly a drop in the bloody bucket. Moreover, the elimination of Jews wasn’t intentional. It was something that developed ad hoc as the conflict ground on. The deaths were unfortunate — really! — but there were quite a few historical omelets being made at the time, so some good eggs were bound to get broken.
The thing that made Cole an especially forceful advocate for this point of view in the 1990s was his Jewishness. He could present himself as an extremely reluctant witness to the alleged truth that the Holocaust was mostly a rhetorical and commercial construct.
Cole’s frequent Holocaust-minimizing public appearances made him a target of the Jewish Defense League, a vigilante group that pledged to “protect Jews from anti-Semitism by whatever means necessary.” Those means most definitely included violence. Spooked, Cole issued a half-hearted “recantation” and went underground in the late 1990s.
Cole’s recantation earned those scare quotes last week when he cheerfully confessed to the Guardian that he still believes that the Holocaust is largely a myth. He still maintains, for instance, that Auschwitz was not an “elimination camp,” and that the Jewish death toll was nowhere near 6 million.
In the Guardian and elsewhere, Republican Party Animals have been on the defensive about this. “David conned all of us. None of us knew who he was!” Edwards told me, until the YouTube videos were discovered recently. In fact, the Party Animals, being Republicans, “constantly are accused of being Zionist and too pro-Israel,” he said.
Edwards added, had he known of the Holocaust-denial stuff, he would have used it against Cole when they had their blow-up last year. Almost down the line, the reaction by members has been sheer, uncomprehending horror.
Some reports have accused the Party Animals of covering up the embarrassment, but that isn’t true of the organization’s founder, I can reveal. Edwards reached out to me a few weeks ago about breaking the story. I proved too busy with travel and projects to dive into it.
Given the hassle of having to, well, deny Holocaust denial, I asked Edwards Monday if he’s tempted to throw in the towel? Not on your life, is the polite version of his response.
Running Republican Party Animals has been “an amazing experience” for Edwards and “one sociopath is not going to ruin that,” he said: “We’re going to keep fighting, keep partying, keep having a good time.”