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Zionsville school board candidate under fire for comments on Nazis

ZIONSVILLE, Ind. (WISH) — A longtime business owner on Thursday said a school board candidate’s comments on Nazis call into question his fitness to oversee children’s education.

Matt Keefer is one of three people running for an at-large seat on the Zionsville school board. In an exchange on Facebook earlier this week, a voter asked Keefer about his positions on Zionsville schools’ policies on COVID-19 and on how teachers should approach certain subjects. In the course of the conversation, the voter wrote, “Would teaching students that the Tulsa Massacre was a bad thing be considered the kind of ‘indoctrination’ that teachers shouldn’t be doing? Can they also teach students that all Nazis are bad? Or is that ‘indoctrination’ as well?”

Keefer replied, “I have no problem with your examples being taught in schools, but a few exceptions to these specific instances. All Nazis weren’t ‘bad’ as you specify. They did horrible things. They were in a group frenzy in both cases you site (sic).”

The voter and several others on Keefer’s page left replies roundly criticizing those comments. Jewelry store owner Bob Goodman said he has discussed Keefer’s comments with several customers over the past two days.

“I just want to make sure people know what’s going on and what’s being said,” he said. “I haven’t run into anybody to this point whose eyes haven’t bugged out of their head over it.”

Goodman, who is Jewish, called Keefer’s comments anti-semitic. He said such sentiment is not new and the best way to push back on it is to call it out publicly and ensure people who hold such views don’t get into positions of power. Goodman has owned his business for 21 years and said all of his interactions with customers over those years prove Keefer’s views are those of a small number of people, not the Zionsville community.

Keefer declined News 8’s request for comment and instead referred us to one of his supporters. She declined a request for an on-camera interview but said Keefer meant to say Nazis were once-ordinary people who were led into their actions and children need to understand how that happened in the first place in order to prevent it from happening again.

Goodman said any attempt to excuse the actions of the Nazis and their supporters is hurtful and misses the point.

“I think that’s just a way to defend that you’re antisemitic, or that you’re racist,” he said. “It’s the idea of you getting caught up in the moment. And getting caught up in the moment of genocide? That’s what we’re saying. Tell that to the Armenians. Tell that to the 12 million dead in the Holocaust.”

Christy Wessel-Powell, one of Keefer’s two opponents in the election, called Keefer’s comments irresponsible and disturbing. She said she would be horrified if a teacher said something similar in her daughter’s classes. Keefer’s other opponent, Sarah Sampson, declined to comment on the situation.

Update

In a statement posted to his campaign Facebook page Thursday night, Keefer wrote he stood by his earlier comments saying “I was correct.” He said he was trying to make a point about not making blanket characterizations about every single person in any given group. He said it’s incumbent on everyone to try to understand why someone might think differently.

“While some followers of this conversation understood some of the nuance in my points immediately, others chose to try and tear me down,” he wrote. “To be clear: I never was, am not now, and never will be a Nazi sympathizer.”