At a get-out-the-vote rally in Sioux Falls for Democratic House candidate Stephanie Herseth (search), Johnson told the crowd that Herseth will win a June 1 special election against Republican Larry Diedrich (search). "And how sweet it's going to be on June 2 when the Taliban wing of the Republican Party finds out what's happened in South Dakota," Johnson said at the Sunday event.
The second-term senator issued an apology Tuesday, saying "I am proud of the support I have enjoyed from Republicans across South Dakota. In a state like ours, you have to be able to reach across party lines to find consensus. If any Republicans were offended, I apologize."
Republicans were outraged by the remarks, with state GOP chairman Randy Frederick describing the statement as "repulsive" and "an attack on the character of all Republicans in South Dakota."
"To have someone of Sen. Tim Johnson's stature talking about my supporters as being terrorists is somewhat flabbergasting," Diedrich said.
Johnson said the remarks were directed at an outside group that attacked the senator's patriotism and "compared me to Saddam Hussein and Usama bin Laden" in a television ad during his 2002 Senate campaign.
The winner of the June 1 special election between Herseth and Diedrich will fill the seat vacated by former Rep. Bill Janklow, who resigned after being convicted of manslaughter in a deadly motorcycle crash.