With the continuing tide of public opinion strongly against Confederate memorials, TMZ’s ever-present cameras caught up with author, philanthropist, and entrepreneur Russell Simmons. When asked about such memorials, Simmons didn’t mince words.
“We don’t have a memorial for Hitler,” Simmons told TMZ. “We don’t have a whole celebration of his effort. His effort was wrong. His intention was bad…was hurtful. So we don’t put up statues of him or any opponents.”
The comparison comes on the heels of white supremacists rallying in Charlottesville, Virginia last week to protest the removal and renaming of several Confederate monuments. While members of the assembled white nationalist groups were American citizens, they displayed swastikas and performed the Hitlergruss or Heil Hitler salute, making Simmons' comparison rather spot-on.
The white supremacist protests resulted in James Fields Jr. facing attempted murder charges on accusations of ramming his car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer while injuring dozens of others.
With subsequent rallies planned and debates looming about racial equality nationwide, Simmons also spoke about the recent passing of comedian and Civil Rights activist Dick Gregory, and his connection to the Simmons-produced Def Comedy Jam.
“A lot of things you can’t say seriously because people can’t digest it,” Simmons added. “If you make it funny, they listen. [Dick Gregory] said things that were biting, real, inspired and were truthful. A lot of people are afraid of the truth, right? A lot of the truth is scary—about America and the suffering of black people. That stuff is hard to say for some people.”
Simmons called Gregory a hero, noting how his work in Civil Rights and food science changed his own life. You can read the full interview at TMZ.com.