Legendary VC Tom Perkins on Monday explained, clarified, apologized for, and then stood by his controversial letter where he said that people who criticise the rich were behaving like the Nazis did toward the Jews in World War II.
Speaking in an interview with Bloomberg Television anchor Emily Chang, Perkins very carefully said that he apologized for using the word “Kristallnacht” in his letter to the Wall Street Journal, but that he stood by the general message of the letter: that he thinks America is dangerously demonizing the rich.
He views the rich as a minority.
He said, “It was a terrible word to have chosen.” Kristallnacht refers to one of the first raids on German Jews that was the onset of the Holocaust in which 6 million Jews were ultimately killed.
He recounted how his partner Eugene Kleiner, who had escaped from Nazi Germany, and taught him, “Never imagine that the unimaginable cannot be come real.”
Then he emphasised:
“But the letter said what I believe, I believe we have to be careful that we don’t demonize anybody and we don’t demonize the most creative part of society,” he said. “As a class, we are beginning to engage in class warfare. The rich as a class are threatened through higher taxes, more regulation.”
Essentially, his argument is the classic “trickle down economics” theory, that the rich are the job creators, that as they spend money everyone benefits and gets richer.
The creative 1 % are threatened. … I’m friends with Al Gore who tells me income inequality is the No. 1 problem in America. But the 1% are not causing the inequality. They are the job creators. I think Kleiner Perkins itself over the years has created pretty close to 1 million jobs and we’re still doing it. It’s absurd to demonize the rich for being rich and doing what the rich do, which is get richer by creating opportunities for others.”
There were moments where Perkins showed off his over-the-top wealth, too. He talked about how he owned an “underwater aeroplane.” And he pointed to his watch and said, “This isn’t a Rolex. I could buy a six-pack of Rolexes for this.”
He also verified that the inspiration of the letter came from articles in which the San Francisco Chronicle teased his friend and ex-Wife, Danielle Steel, about the size her hedge. There was some name-calling involved, the use of the word “snob.”
Perkins, who was granted a knighthood in Norway in 2000 as a symbol of gratitude for his charity work there, said he felt like he was a riding to her rescue.
“I felt sorry for her. I felt she was being victimized.” he said. “So I thought since I’m a knight, I’m a literal knight of the kingdom of Norway, I would get on my horse and charge forth in her defence. So we can see all the blood I’ve spilled in that process.”
Here’s the bulk of the interview:
Here’s his explanation of why he wrote the letter to defend his ex-wife: