The co-founder of a prominent Silicon Valley venture capital firm apologized today for saying he worried that the Bay Area would be the scene of the next Kristallnacht, referring to a night of violence against Jews that took place before World War II. But he continued to press his message that rich people are being unfairly demonized, and warned that rising tensions could lead to violence.
Tom Perkins, who co-founded Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, said he had formally apologized in a letter to the Anti-Defamation League. "It was a terrible word to have chosen," Perkins said of the reference to Kristallnacht, in an interview on Bloomberg West. "I, like many, have tried to understand the 20th century and the incomprehensible evil of the Holocaust. It can’t be explained. Even to try to explain it is questionable. It's wrong, it’s evil."
Perkins sparked a furor over the weekend with a letter to the editor in the Wall Street Journal, where he said a "rising tide of hatred of the successful one percent" mirrors the treatment of Jews in Nazi Germany. His remarks came amid rising tensions in San Francisco, where rising rent and an increase in the number of evictions has focused anger on Silicon Valley tech companies and the private shuttles that ferry their employees to work using public bus stops. Perkins argued that the Occupy movement and San Francisco Chronicle had provoked class warfare in a feat of "progressive radicalism" that he likened to attacks against the Jews.
"It's absurd to demonize the rich for being rich."
Appearing on Bloomberg West today, Perkins said that while he regretted his use of the word "Kristallnacht," he stood by his original message. "I don't regret the message at all," he said. "The message is that any time the majority starts to demonize a minority, no matter what it is, it’s wrong, and dangerous. And no good ever comes from it." He also said "the majority" should not attack the 1 percent. "It’s absurd to demonize the rich for being rich and for doing what the rich do, which is get richer by creating opportunity for others," he said. But he also drew scorn for saying that his Richard Mille watch, estimated to be worth $379,000, "could buy a six pack of Rolexes."
Kleiner Perkins responded to Perkins' original letter with a tweet saying Perkins had not been involved with the firm for years. "We were shocked by his views expressed today in the WSJ and do not agree," the firm said. "They chose to sort of throw me under the bus, and I didn't like that," Perkins said today.