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Colorado candidate walks back e-mail claiming Rep. Polis would ‘join ISIS in beheading Christians’

A Republican nominee for a Colorado statehouse seat responded to criticism on Monday over his claim that U.S. Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) would “join ISIS in beheading Christians.”

Gordon Klingenschmitt, a longtime conservative figure in the state, said in the video embedded below that the statement e-mailed to supporters was just “hyperbole” and that “some Democrats do not have a sense of humor” before offering up an apology to Polis. He then called out Polis for the ice bucket challenge.

“As a right-wing Christian minister, there are some things that you and I are just never going to agree on, but we can agree on charity,” he says. “Can’t we agree on caring for sick people?” Klingenschmitt can later be seen dumping what appears to be an ice-less bowl of water over his head.

Klingenschmitt said his ice bucket challenge donation would go to a Catholic charity that works against ALS, instead of the ALS Association, mirroring a handful of Catholic and Christian groups in doing so over concerns that the money could fund embryonic stem cell research.

Polis is an openly gay Democrat who is not running against Klingenschmitt in this year’s elections. According to the Denver Post, Klingenschmit  sent out an e-mail over the weekend on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, claiming that “Democrats like Polis want to bankrupt Christians who refuse to worship and endorse his sodomy,” before going on to write that Polis would start beheading Christians “not just in Syria, right here in America.” 

In his apology video, Klingenschmitt maintained that he thought policies supported by Polis would “persecute” Christian business owners in the state, adding: “I would never compare you to the ISIS rebels who behead Christians, right? Of course, you would never go in for something like that.”

The state Republican party distanced itself from Klingenschmitt’s remarks, and not for the first time. Owen Loftus, Colorado GOP spokesman, told the Denver Post on Monday that “As Chairman [Ryan] Call has said in the past, Gordon does not speak on behalf of the Republican Party.” Loftus added, “his comments in no way reflect the views of the Party. Gordon needs to give a sincere apology.” 

Klingenschmitt’s Democratic opponent, Lois Fornander, has asked the conservative to withdraw from the race over the remarks. Referencing his apology video, Fornander said that “Such a statement is far beyond ‘hyperbole,’ it is inflammatory, irresponsible and repulsive.” The district the two are fighting to represent leans Republican. 

Abby Ohlheiser is a general assignment reporter for The Washington Post.

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