Sheldon Adelson Once Called For U.S. to Drop Nuke on Iran

Billionaire Republican megadonor Sheldon Adelson, who died Tuesday at 87 years old, once called for the U.S. to drop a nuclear bomb in the Iranian desert as a display of American strength.

In a video that resurfaced on social media following the casino mogul's death, Adelson—speaking at New York City's Yeshiva University in 2013—criticized then-President Barack Obama's negotiation efforts to roll back Tehran's nuclear development.

"What are we going to negotiate about?" the business magnate said. "You pick up your cell phone and you call somewhere in Nebraska and you say 'Okay, let it go.' So there's an atomic weapon, goes over ballistic missiles in the middle of the desert that doesn't hurt a soul. [...] And you say 'See? The next one is in the middle of Tehran.'"

"So we mean business," he continued. "You want to be wiped out? Go ahead and take a tough position and continue with your nuclear development. You want to be peaceful? Just reverse it all and we will guarantee you that you can have a nuclear power plant for electricity purposes, energy purposes."

Adelson died from complications related to treatment for non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma, his Las Vegas Sands company announced Tuesday.

Hailing from a working class immigrant Jewish family in Boston, Adelson rose to become a luxury resort developer, philanthropist and political influencer with an estimated worth of around $35 billion, according to Forbes. He and his wife Miriam have poured generous amounts of their wealth into GOP campaigns and causes through super PACs.

The Adelsons were the largest donors to outgoing President Donald Trump, who awarded the President Medal to Sheldon Adelson in 2018.

A staunch supporter of Israel—where he established a media empire—the Republican power broker leveraged his status to slant the GOP platform towards explicit support for the country, in spite of concerns over human rights abuses against Palestinians and the ongoing occupation of Palestinian land.

The Adelsons faced criticism for their support of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, considered illegal by the United Nations and the majority of the international community.

Sheldon Adelson was also known for his controversial views regarding Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims, as well as his opposition to a Palestinian state.

When asked whether he believes in trading land for peace at the Yeshiva University panel, Adelson said it is "unwise to trade land for peace from a people who are not a people" and claimed "there's no such thing as a Palestinian."

In 2012, Adelson told the Jewish Journal "You don't have to worry about using the word Islamofascism or Islamo-terrorists. Not all Islamists are terrorists, but all terrorists are Islamist."

According to Haaretz, Adelson in 2011 backed then-presidential candidate Newt Gingritch's controversial claim dubbing Palestinians an "invented people".

"Read the history of those who call themselves Palestinians, and you will hear why Gingrich said recently that the Palestinians are an invented people," Adelson said in his remarks during a Hannukah celebration for participants of the Taglit Birthright program, to which he was a large donor.

Adelson's death led to a flood of tributes from conservatives. Former President George W. Bush heralded Adelson as "an American patriot, a generous benefactor of charitable causes, and a strong supporter of Israel," while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called the billionaire a "remarkable American" and lauded his "incredible life and career.

While Adelson's passing was mourned by conservatives, others did not remember the billionaire as fondly.

"Sheldon Adelson was a disastrous human being for Muslims, Palestinians and, recently, U.S. democracy," tweeted journalist Wajahat Ali.

"Hard to think of a single more destructive force in American politics than Sheldon Adelson, who spent billions making the world a worst place before leaving it in ruins," religion scholar Reza Aslan posted on Twitter.

Sheldon Adelson attends gala in Beverley Hills
Sheldon Adelson attends Friends of The Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) Western Region Gala at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on November 1, 2018 in Beverly Hills, California. Adelson, who died at 87 years old, was a staunch supporter of Israel. Shahar Azran/Getty Images