WASHINGTON – In a rare move, a spokesman for the Koch brothers made a statement defending the Republican super donors after Harry Belafonte likened the billionaire chemical tycoons to the Ku Klux Klan.
"Mr. Belafonte's comments are false and reprehensible," said Rob Tappan, a spokesman for the brothers. "His comments are divisive and destructive and are indicative of the type of hateful rhetoric that leads to the breakdown of a civil and respectful society."
Tappan added that the brothers "have devoted their lives to advancing tolerance and a free society, where every individual is judged on his or her individual merits and they are free to make decisions about their lives.
While the Kochs are common targets at Democratic events across the country, their aides do not normally respond publicly to criticism.
The public rebuttal from the Koch camp came after Belafonte lambasted the pair at a New York City church service on Sunday. According to Capital New York, an online magazine, the 86-year-old entertainer pushed his rhetoric beyond the political and called the Koch brothers "the most corrupt group of citizens I've ever known" and "men of evil."
"They make up the heart and the thinking in the minds of those who would belong to the Ku Klux Klan," Belafonte said at the First Corinthian Baptist Church. "They are white supremacists."
Belafonte continued the diatribe, remarking that the pair "is already sewn into the fabric of our daily system, and they must be stopped." He largely took issue with the Kochs' investment in New York Presbyterian Hospital, accusing the industrialists of trying to "take over the medical care system."
After it was ravaged by Superstorm Sandy, the hospital accepted a $100 million donation from David Koch.
The pushback from the Koch brothers' representatives marks the second time in recent weeks the reticent billionaires have stepped into public view to weigh in on recent events. After conservatives helped lead the charge to shut down the government, Koch Industries issued a statement denying allegations that the brothers advocated defunding President Barack Obama's signature health care law at all costs.
"Koch has not taken a position on the legislative tactic of tying the continuing resolution to defunding Obamacare – nor have we lobbied on legislative provisions defunding Obamacare," spokesman Philip Ellender said in a letter dated October 9.
(CNN's Kevin Bohn contributed to this report.)