British Business Secretary Vince Cable once called the U.S. Congress a den of "right-wing nutters." But after the sweeping success of far-right parties in European Parliament elections on Sunday, the Europeans can no longer cast the first stone.
The European Parliament's freshman class of 2014 includes a rogues gallery of Holocaust deniers, homophobes, misogynists and racists, including guys who make Donald Sterling look like a card-carrying member of the Rainbow Coalition. Some far-right parties — such as France's National Front — posted huge gains. But in all fairness, some among the most fringe lawmakers just barely skated into their seats on rule changes that opened the door to obscure extremists.
Here's a look at some of the European Parliament's new legislators you wouldn't want to meet in a dark alley.
A unabashed fan of the Third Reich, Udo Voigt, a 62-year-old former German air force officer, is the first European Parliament lawmaker from the National Democratic Party of Germany. Voigt, the son of a Nazi soldier whom he calls his "role model," was charged in 2004 with incitement to hatred for calling Adolf Hitler a "great man."
In 2007, he was charged again for allegedly suggesting the name of Rudolf Hess, Hitler's deputy, for the Nobel Peace Prize. That same year, he told a Iranian news outlet that the death toll from the Holocaust had been greatly exaggerated. Despite previous charges, he kept spewing hate — getting a 10-month suspended sentence in 2012 for glorifying the actions of Hitler's SS.
Giving Voigt a run for his money in the competition for Most Extreme European Politician is Poland's Janusz Korwin-Mikke. Anti-government and anti-European Union, Korwin-Mikke wants to turn Poland back into an absolute monarchy. Never one to mince words, he said that "women are dumber than men and should not be allowed to vote." Among his campaign pledges: a vow to turn the European Commission headquarters in Brussels into a brothel.
Women should not take it too personally. Korwin-Mikke is an equal-opportunity offender. He had this to say about the 2012 London Paralympic Games, according to Visegrad Insight.
The Paralympics 'have little in common with sports," Korwin-Mikke wrote on his blog. "We might as well organize chess matches for morons or bridge tournaments for people with Down's Syndrome. European civilization, which dominated the world, stood up for the smartest, strongest, most intelligent, and fastest people; but today's anti-civilization prefers the poor, stupid, incapable, and also invalids. In effect we are not colonizing the world; it is colonizing us."
Farther south, Gianluca Buonanno of Italy's Northern League will be bringing his David Duke brand of humor to the European Parliament. In January, he dirtied his face with makeup to illustrate the point that Italians "needed to be a little bit darker" if they were going to get welfare benefits. During a discussion in Italy's parliament last year on gay issues, he produced a bulb of fennel — whose name in Italian is a homosexual slur — to taunt two openly gay lawmakers. That particularly nicety came on the heels of a radio interview in which he said that, if confronted by a homosexual, he would "kick him in the balls."
And then there are those who are less far right than far out. Take Martin Sonneborn, please.
The German satirist and comedian ran on a campaign that was one part "Veep," one part the Onion. He vowed to build a wall around Switzerland and wooed the public with promises to put German Chancellor Angela Merkel on a Mubarak-like show trial — in a "cage."
Not one to skirt the line of taste but bulldoze right through it, he once produced a campaign poster that showed him in blackface. The poster's title: "Ick bin ein Obama" (I am an Obama).
For better or worse, his comedic reign in parliament may be shortlived. Even before winning a seat, he pledged to spend his first four weeks in office "intensively preparing my resignation."