Maine's Republican governor ignited a fresh firestorm on Thursday when, for the second time in a week, he compared the Internal Revenue Service to the Gestapo, Nazi Germany's murderous secret police.
Democrats suggested that Governor Paul LePage, a tea party favorite elected in 2010, was unfit to hold office.
LePage had already been called out by Democrats, Jewish groups and others in his state for linking the federal tax agency and the Gestapo in his weekly radio address on Saturday.
At that point LePage termed the IRS "the new Gestapo" in comments opposing national healthcare reforms upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court last month.
After the remarks were picked up by national media, LePage said in a statement that he had not intended to insult anyone. "Clearly, what has happened is that the use of the word Gestapo has clouded my message," he said.
But in Vermont on Thursday at a fundraising event, LePage expanded on his earlier analogy in an interview with Seven Days, a Burlington weekly newspaper and website.
"What I am trying to say is the Holocaust was a horrific crime against humanity and, frankly, I would never want to see that repeated. Maybe the IRS is not quite as bad — yet," LePage said.
Asked if the IRS was headed in that direction, LePage responded, "They're headed in that direction."
Asked if he knew what Adolf Hitler's secret police did during World War Two, including the imprisonment and murder of millions of Jews, LePage said, "Yeah, they killed a lot of people." Asked whether the IRS "was headed in the direction of killing a lot of people," LePage answered: "Yeah."
LePage added he was referring to the rationing of healthcare that he said occurs in Canada, which has a publicly funded national health system.
In a statement, Ben Grant, chairman of the Maine Democratic Party, questioned LePage's fitness to hold office.
"We are governed by a person far more suited to anonymously calling talk radio programs than representing 1.3 million hard-working people," Grant said.
The National Jewish Democratic Council denounced LePage's latest comments as unacceptable.
IRS workers this week also demanded an apology, terming LePage's initial comments extreme and potentially dangerous.
"Irresponsible rhetoric and mischaracterizations of federal employees can also lead to violent attacks on these workers," Colleen Kelley, national president of the National Treasury Employees Union, said in a letter sent to LePage on Tuesday.
In attacking the healthcare law, Republicans have seized on the Supreme Court's ruling that a fee to be charged to those who refuse to buy healthcare insurance was allowed under Congress's taxing powers. Republicans have said that the ruling meant the fee was therefore a tax.
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