WASHINGTON – Two Democratic House members are demanding that a Republican representative apologize to John Kerry (search) for suggesting that a vote for the Massachusetts senator in November is akin to a vote for Adolf Hitler.
But Republican Rep. Tom Cole (search) of Oklahoma, said Thursday he never made such a linkage and stood by his original remarks, which he said were twisted by local media.
Speaking to Republicans in Canadian County, Okla., last Saturday, Cole said that voting for Kerry would send the wrong message across the world, handing victory to Usama bin Laden (search).
"I promise you this, if George Bush loses the election, Usama bin Laden wins the election. It's that simple. It will be interpreted that way by enemies of the United States around the world," Cole said in a speech at the county GOP's convention.
"What do you think Hitler would have thought if Roosevelt would've lost the election in 1944? He would not have thought American resolve was strengthening. What would the Confederacy have thought if Lincoln would have lost the election of 186?" he continued.
Cole's comments sparked outrage from Democrats.
"He ought to be ashamed of himself and members on both sides of the aisle ought to repudiate [the comments] as completely wrong, unacceptable and out-of-bounds," said House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (search) of Maryland.
"Senator John Kerry is a war hero who served our nation with honor and distinction. For Congressman Cole to disagree with Senator Kerry's views is one thing. But for him to impugn John Kerry's patriotism and career-long commitment to our national security by suggesting that a vote against George Bush is like supporting Adolf Hitler or Usama bin Laden is beyond comprehension. Congressman Cole ought to know better," Hoyer said.
Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (search) Chairman Robert T. Matsui of California called on Bush to repudiate the tactics of Cole, whom he called a Bush confidant.
"As this campaign begins, President Bush has a responsibility to put a stop to the gutter politics Republican operatives are carrying out in his name," Matsui said
Hoyer likened Cole's comments to a widely-criticized television advertisement considered by Moveon.org in which an image of President Bush morphed into an image of Hitler. He implored Republican National Committee (search) Chairman Ed Gillespie to rebuke these comments just as he did the advertisement.
"Comments like these are indefensible, regardless of the speaker's political affiliation," Hoyer said.
On Thursday, Cole, who served as chief of staff of the RNC during the 2000 election, said he stood by his comments and disputed the characterization of them by his hometown newspaper, the Yukon Review.
"I do believe that if President Bush is not re-elected, the United States' enemies around the world will take comfort and strength in the fact that such a strong wartime leader would be out of office. I never said and do not believe that a vote against President Bush is equivalent to a vote for Adolf Hitler. The patriotism of candidates and voters who oppose the president is not in question," Cole said.