"When they came for the cigarettes, I didn't say anything, because I didn't smoke," Dan Halloran, who represents Northeastern Queens, said at a Department of Health public hearing in Long Island City on Tuesday. "When they came for the M.S.G., I didn't say anything because I don't eat it very often."
Halloran's quote echoed the famous phrase from an outspoken critic of Hitler, Martin Niemöller, about the world's reluctance to accept the growing Nazi threat: "First they came for the Communists, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Communist..."
A spokesman for Halloran defended the councilman's comparison Tuesday.
"Obviously you know what he was referencing. It was somewhat tongue in cheek. He wasn't comparing anyone to anything, it was a joke," said Steven Sites.
"He was making the point that some people have rolled over in the past on other things, and it's been shown that Mayor Blomberberg will just keep going and going and going."
On Wednesday, Sites added: "The Councilman used a famous quote about citizen unresponsiveness to governmental overreach. He wasn't comparing anything to the Holocaust."
Halloran, a Republican, is running for Congress against Grace Meng, whose father was arrested Tuesday on charges of fraud after allegedly stealing money from a man who wanted to bribe federal prosecutors to reduce tax evasion charges aginst him.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg's office did not immediately respond to calls for comment.