AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) - Governor Paul LePage has apologized to Maine's Jewish community for comparing the IRS to the Gestapo.
The Governor's comments came over the weekend in his weekly radio address. The Governor was criticizing the federal Affordable Care Act, often called "Obama Care", and was targeting the requirement that Americans buy health insurance or pay a penalty through taxes. That is the portion of the law that was recently upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Governor said "the (court) decision has made America less free. We the people have been told there is no choice You must buy health insurance or pay the new Gestapo - the IRS."
That comparison of the IRS to the Gestapo, which murdered or terrorized hundreds of thousands of people in Nazi Germany during World War Two, angered Democrats, who quickly condemned the comments as "shameful and ignorant", and called for an apology.
The leader of the Jewish Community Alliance of Southern Maine was also highly critical, saying "there is no comparison" between the Internal Revenue Service and the Gestapo.
But the Republican Speaker of the House, Rep. Robert Nutting, defended the Governor. While admitting that he would not have used the word "Gestapo" himself, Nutting said he believed the word has come to have a more generic meaning about "heavy handed government", and said that was the message the Governor wanted to send about the new health insurance law.
But after a full day of dealing with the controversy, Gov. LePage's office issued a written statement to the press, saying use of the word Gestapo hade "clouded my message". The statement also said "It was not my intent to insult anyone, especially the Jewish Community, or minimize the fact that millions of people were murdered."
About an hour later, Emily Chaleff of the Jewish Community Alliance sent her own press release, stating the Governor LePage had called her, and "apologized personally to the Jewish community" for comparing the IRS to the Gestapo."
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