WASHINGTON -- Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) on Monday refused to apologize for invoking the specter of the Holocaust in his criticism of President Barack Obama's nuclear deal with Iran.
"Three times I've been to Auschwitz. When I talked about the oven door, I have stood at that oven door. I know exactly what it looks like -- 1.1 million people killed," Huckabee, a 2016 presidential candidate, said in an appearance on Fox News' "The Five."
Geraldo Rivera, one of the show's hosts, pushed back on the comparison.
"I love you. You would be a great president," Rivera said. "You have the temperance. You have the experience. But as a Jew -- and I have to tell you, with people who work in the Anti-Defamation League and relatives on both sides, it was inappropriate. There are some places you cannot go."
Huckabee's defense is unlikely to quell outrage among Democrats and representatives of Jewish groups, who over the weekend called on him to apologize.
Huckabee, however, made clear in his interview on Fox that he would not "recant." Instead, he argued the remark was appropriate because Iran has previously called for Israel's demise and would follow through should the country develop a nuclear weapon.
Reaction from other GOP presidential hopefuls has been largely subdued. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) went furthest at a town hall in Florida, when he called the use of such incendiary language "just wrong." Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) declined to comment. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) said he personally wouldn't use that kind of rhetoric, but declined to condemn Huckabee for doing so.
Ron Dermer, the Israeli ambassador to the U.S. who opposes the Iran deal, also chided Huckabee.
"These are not words that I would use or that I think are appropriate," Dermer said.
Watch Huckabee's comments above.