NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A state Senator's blog post likening the insurance requirement under President Barack Obama's health care law to the forced deportation of Jews during the Holocaust drew swift condemnation Monday from leaders of both parties in Tennessee.
Republican Sen. Stacey Campfield of Knoxville wrote the comment in a post titled "Thought of the Day." "Democrats bragging about the number of mandatory sign ups for Obamacare is like Germans bragging about the number of manditory sign ups for 'train rides' for Jews in the 40s," he wrote.
State Republican Party Chairman Chris Devaney called the comment "ignorant and repugnant," and called for an immediate apology to the Jewish community. Democratic Party Chairman Roy Herron called the statement "outrageous, pathetic, and hateful."
State Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey said Campfield's comments were "extremely insensitive and crossed the line," while fellow Republican state House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick called them "distasteful and classless."
Campfield in a phone interview shrugged off the criticism, and said he stands by his comments. "I think Jewish people should be the first to stand up against Obamacare," Campfield said. "When you have government deciding who gets health insurance and who doesn't, what services they get and what services they have to provide, they're really deciding who lives and who dies."
"It's a slippery slope," he said. The Anti-Defamation League's Southeast interim regional director, Shelley Rose, wrote Campfield, urging him to apologize. "The six million Jewish victims and millions of other victims of Hitler deserve better," Rose wrote. "Their deaths should not be used for political points or sloganeering."
Campfield, who is running for re-election this year, has a long history of controversial statements and legislative initiatives. In 2011, he was the sponsor of a failed bill that sought to ban teaching about gay issues in public schools. The next year, he drew fire after telling a satellite radio host that HIV and AIDS originated from a man having sex with a monkey and that it was nearly "impossible" for AIDS to be contracted through heterosexual sex.
Campfield said Monday he was unmoved by the criticism from the chairman of his own party. "He never called me," he said. "If he wants to apologize to Obama, he can."