Maine Gov. Paul LePage, a Republican, is trying to take his foot out of his mouth, but his big toe is still there.
He has apologized for referring to the IRS as the “Gestapo.” But the apology apparentlly was directed to the Jewish community and not to federal workers at the Internal Revenue Service, as their union demanded.
After meeting with representatives of Jewish organizations, LePage said in his Saturday radio address: “Millions of innocent people were murdered and I apologize for my insensitivity to the word and the offense some took to my comparison of the IRS and the Gestapo. However, I want to make this very clear; it was never my intent to insult or to be hurtful to anyone, but rather express what can happen by overreaching government. I fear we have a federal government that is moving toward a socialistic state and we must not forget history because if we do we are bound to repeat it.”
The address was called an “Apology to the Maine People” and LePage cited his meeting with Jewish representatives. Although he said he did not want “to be hurtful to anyone,” he did not mention IRS employees specifically, and that upsets the president of their union.
“IRS employees are dedicated public servants who are carrying out the laws that Congress has established,” Colleen M. Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, said Monday. “This inflammatory political rhetoric may garner headlines but it does nothing to advance thoughtful dialogue on issues facing our country.”
LePage made the Gestapo comment during a July 7 radio address critical of the Supreme Court decision that generally upheld the Afforddable Care Act.
“This decision has made America less free,” he said. “We the people have been told there is no choice. You must buy health insurance or pay the new Gestapo – the IRS.”
He compounded the situation Thursday, when “Seven Days,” a media organization in Vermont, reported that he said the IRS is not as bad as the Gestapo “yet.” Then, he added: “They’re headed in that direction.”
In a letter to LePage last week, Kelley said she was “greatly offended by your scurrilous and absurd comparison of these loyal Americans to the murderous secret police behind one of the darkest events in human history.”
“The time has come to acknowledge the contributions of employees with the IRS and other federal agencies,” Kelley added. “Federal employees are members of every community in America, including those in Maine, and these hard-working professionals are your constituents. They deserve better from their governor — and they deserve a full apology.”
Previous columns by Joe Davidson are available at wapo.st/JoeDavidson.