Wednesday, March 12, 2014
Gov. Paul LePage on Thursday attempted to clarify his recent comment comparing the Internal Revenue Service to the Gestapo during a fundraiser in Vermont. However, the governor may instead have reignited a controversy that has made national headlines.
Gov. Paul LePage: "I just know that I'm a product of the American dream. I came from nothing and have been modestly successful. I have not had to worry about the IRS telling me I have to do things. I'd like to have my independence."
File photo / The Portland Press Herald
Gov. Paul LePage sips from a coffee mug displaying a message on the bottom in his office at the State House in Augusta in April.
2012 AP File Photo
EXCERPTS FROM THE VERMONT INTERVIEW
Reporter: So, you’ve obviously stirred up a lot of controversy in the last week or so –
LePAGE: I did?
Reporter: Have you heard about any controversy?
LePAGE: Nah, I don’t read newspapers.
Reporter: No controversy?
LePAGE: I never read newspapers.
Reporter: Maybe I’ve got the wrong governor. I’m kidding you.
• • •
Reporter: So you’re saying the IRS is heading in the direction of the Gestapo. Do you have a sense of what the Gestapo actually did during World War II?
LePAGE: Yeah, they killed a lot of people.
Reporter: And so the IRS is heading in that direction?
Reporter: They’re headed in the direction of killing a lot of people?
Reporter: Are you serious?
LePAGE: Yeah, very serious. You know why?
Reporter: Tell me.
LePAGE: They ration health care in Canada. That’s why a lot of people from Canada come down to the U.S.
During an interview with a reporter from the Burlington weekly Seven Days, LePage said the IRS wasn't as bad as the Gestapo, the Nazi police force that imprisoned and murdered millions of Jews during World War II, but the agency was headed in that direction.
"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," LePage said. "Maybe the IRS is not quite as bad -- yet."
Seven Days reporter Paul Heintz asked, "But they're headed in that direction?"
LePage responded, "They're headed in that direction."
Heintz then asked LePage if he knew what the Gestapo did during World War II. LePage said, "Yeah, they killed a lot of people." Heintz asked if he thought the IRS was going to kill a lot of people.
"Yeah," LePage said.
"They're headed in the direction of killing a lot of people? Are you serious?" Heintz asked.
LePage said he was "very serious," adding that the agency would be rationing health care.
"They ration health care in Canada," LePage said. "That's why a lot of people from Canada come down to the U.S."
LePage first compared the IRS to the Gestapo on Saturday during his weekly radio address. He later backtracked on the comments, following an outcry from Jewish and other groups. The head of the IRS workers union also demanded an apology, saying such rhetoric could endanger employees.
LePage's most recent remarks came Thursday, at a fundraiser for Vermont GOP gubernatorial candidate Randy Brock.
Brock later accused Heintz of not asking fair questions, an assessment repeated by LePage spokeswoman Adrienne Bennett. She did not attend the event, but said Thursday it was clear that Heintz "had an agenda."
Bennett said LePage's chief concern is that health care might be rationed under the law. LePage did not mean to keep repeating the comparison to the Gestapo, she said. What the governor fears is that rationing under the Affordable Care Act might leave elderly people without care, and LePage had tried to convey that concern when he clarified his remarks later in Thursday's interview, Bennett said.
According to the Times Argus in Montpelier, Vt., Brock had a separate news conference after the LePage interview, during which he attempted to distance himself from his guest's remarks.
"Those are not words I would use," said Brock. "I believe that he may have been using hyperbole, but in point of fact it's not something I said, it's not something I believe, it's not something that I would say."
Brock did say that LePage was a friend.
Heintz asked LePage if he thought his comments were insensitive.
LePage said, "Well, let's put it this way. I apologize to Jewish Americans if they feel offended. But I also apologize to Japanese Americans that were put in prison during World War II, and I also apologize to those people that were accused of being communists during McCarthyism, because that's not the American way."
Heintz then asked if he thought the IRS would imprison people.
LePage said: "I don't know. I don't know. I just know that I'm a product of the American dream. I came from nothing and have been modestly successful. I have not had to worry about the IRS telling me I have to do things. I'd like to have my independence."
(Continued on page 2)