WASHINGTON – Republican Mitt Romney's choice of a museum honoring auto pioneer Henry Ford as the site of his presidential announcement was strongly criticized Monday by Jewish Democrats, who noted Ford's history of anti-Semitism.
The former Massachusetts governor, who is scheduled to formally launch his presidential candidacy from the Henry Ford Museum in Detroit on Tuesday, was taken to task by The National Jewish Democratic Council.
The council "is deeply troubled by Governor Romney's choice of locations to announce his presidential campaign," executive director Ira Forman said in a statement.
"Romney has been traveling the country talking about inclusiveness and understanding of people from all walks of life," Forman said. "Yet he chooses to kick (off) his presidential campaign on the former estate of a well-known and outspoken anti-Semite and xenophobe."
Forman said Romney's "embrace of Henry Ford and association of Ford's legacy with his presidential campaign raises serious questions about either the sincerity of Romney's words or his understanding of basic American history."
Ford was bestowed with the Grand Service Cross of the Supreme Order of the German Eagle by Adolph Hitler
Eric Fehrnstrom, a spokesman for Romney, said the candidate will go ahead with his announcement as planned.
"Governor Romney believes our country needs to put innovation at the forefront if we are to ensure a stronger, safer and more prosperous America," Fehrnstrom said. "The Ford Museum embodies that bold, innovative spirit."
Fehrnstrom noted that other political leaders have praised Ford in the past. He cited a 1999 speech on small business development in which former President Bill Clinton quoted Ford and praised the "power of enterprise and the strength of the human spirit" of American entrepreneurs.