Perkins: I regret using the word 'Kristallnacht,' but not the message

By James Robinson , written on January 27, 2014

From The News Desk

After setting the Internet on fire over the weekend by proving that it's possible to own both a $150 million yacht and a victim complex, Tom Perkins, a founding partner of Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, sat down for an interview this afternoon with Bloomberg TV’s Emily Chang.

In the forty minute sit-down, Perkins apologised for his comparison to Kristallnacht, but insisted he had no regrets about his comparisons between the American one-percent and Germany’s Jewish population during the Holocaust.

“I regret the use of that word [Kristallnacht], it was a terrible misjudgment. I don’t regret the message,” Perkins said.

Watching local Occupy protesters smash windows at both a Wells Fargo and luxury car dealership, Perkins told Chang that he thought to himself that this was “how Kristallnacht began.” But citing a conversation he’d had that morning with the National Director of the Anti-Defamation League Abe Foxman, Perkins said he realised that it was a grievous error on his behalf to compare class tension in America with an event where 90 Jews were killed and 30,000 put into concentration camps.

“I deeply apologize to… any of you who have mistaken my reference to Kristallnacht as an example of overt anti-semitism,” Perkins said.

Perkins however doubled down on what he sees as similarities in attitudes towards the Jews in Germany in the late 1930s and the rich in America in 2014.

“The Jews were only one percent of the German population, most Germans had never met a Jew,” Perkins said.

“I guess my point was that when you start to use hatred against a minority it can get out of control.”

Perkins cited lessons taught to him by fellow KPCB co-founder, the late Eugene Kleiner, who escaped Nazi Germany for America in 1938.

“He taught me, never imagine that the unimaginable can not become real.”

[In response to Perkins’ comment, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers distanced themselves immediately from him. “Tom Perkins has not been involved in KPCB in years. We were shocked by his views expressed today in the WSJ and do not agree,” the company published on its official Twitter feed.]

The remainder of the interview was packed with quotes that will likely fire-up both Perkins' critics and his supporters, as he trumpeted his roots as part of the 99 percent and wondered out loud whether he was out of touch.

At one point, Perkins talked up his friendship with former Vice President Al Gore and California Governor Jerry Brown, who he voted for “even though he raised my taxes by 30 percent.”

“I did not come originally from the one percent. I grew up as one of the 99 percenters. I’m your classically self-made man.”

Perkins conceded, as he said his friends Al Gore and Jerry Brown had told him, that inequality was a serious issue in America. His solution was a standard small government argument that will again be music to the ears of his fans and detractors.

“I think the solution is less interference, lower taxes,” Perkins said.

“The one percent is not causing inequality, they are the job creators. It’s absurd to demonize the rich for being rich and doing what the rich do, which is get richer by creating opportunity for others.”

Perhaps the best quote of the interview, however, came not from Perkins but from Chang.

"You have an airplane that flies underwater," she asked. "Do you worry that you're divorced from reality?"

Perkins hesitated.

“I don’t know if anybody can answer that, truthfully.”