Maine governor says IRS not as bad as Gestapo - yet

July 12, 2012|By Morgan Little | This post has been updated, as indicated below.
  • A protester holds a "Remove Obama" sign in front of the U.S. Supreme Court during protests against healthcare reform in Washington.
A protester holds a "Remove Obama" sign in front of the U.S. Supreme… (Mark Wilson / Getty Images )

WASHINGTON – Maine Gov. Paul LePage got in some hot water recently for likening the Internal Revenue Service to the Gestapo, the dreaded secret police of Nazi Germany. During his weekly radio address, he said individuals “must buy health insurance or pay the new Gestapo — the IRS.”

After an uproar, he apologized to those he offended, “especially the Jewish community.” But in an interview Thursday with 7 Days, a Vermont alternative publication, the Republican governor once again referenced the Holocaust in denouncing the U.S. government’s tax collection agency.

“Clearly, what has happened is that the use of the word Gestapo has clouded my message,” LePage said at a fundraiser for Vermont gubernatorial candidate Randy Brock, according to 7 Days.  “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.”

Asked whether he’s aware of the Gestapo’s function during World War II – helping send millions of Jews and others to their deaths in concentration camps -- LePage affirmed that it was established to “kill a lot of people,” and said his comparison between them and the IRS is “very serious.”

LePage later sought to clarify his remarks to 7 Days.

"Do I think that the IRS is intentionally going to kill someone? No," he said. "Do I think the [Affordable Care Act] is going to force rationing on American people? Yes."

"Analogies to the Holocaust and the Nazis are inappropriate when discussing the IRS. They trivialize and demean millions of Hitler’s victims, and offend all those who value civil discourse and respectful dialogue," the Anti-Defamation League said in response to LePage's second round of comments. "If and when he issues a public apology, we will welcome it.”

LePage is currently embroiled in a public battle with Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) over whether the state should take part in the expansion of Medicaid. Pingree sent a letter to Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius Monday addressing her concern that LePage’s actions would endanger the state of health insurance throughout the state.

LePage responded with a letter to Pingree claiming that “you have become part of the jet-setting Washington culture that keeps people dependent on government handouts.”

“I certainly never intended for this to be a personal dispute with Governor LePage," Pingree replied in a statement, "and I know all too well the difficult budget times we are in. But I'm also not going to back down from speaking out for the 27,000 Maine people who stand to lose their health care coverage.” 

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[For the Record, 2:48 p.m. PST  July 12: This post has been updated to reflect comments made by the Anti-Defamation League.]

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