NASHVILLE, Tenn. – A Tennessee state senator who compared the federal health care law to the forced transportation of Jews to concentration camps during the Holocaust appeared to make light of the firestorm about his comments this week in a blog post on Tuesday.
"I like ice cream, mom, apple pie and puppies," Republican Sen. Stacey Campfield of Knoxville said. "This message has been approved by my campaign staff."
Campfield, who wrote the Holocaust comment Monday in a post titled "Thought of the Day," said his intention was to warn, and not to offend.
"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. The misspelling of "mandatory" appears in the original text.
Campfield's remark drew swift condemnation and demands for apology from both Republican and Democratic leaders in the state.
"Words matter, and to make the comparison to the Holocaust is wrong, inappropriate and insensitive," Republican Gov. Bill Haslam, a former Knoxville mayor, said Tuesday.
Campfield later on Monday afternoon issued another statement on his blog, expressing "regret that some people miss the point of my post. It was not to offend. It was to warn."
"In no way was my post meant to diminish or detract from the pain, suffering and loss of human life that occurred during this dark time in human history," he said. "Instead the post was meant to draw attention to the loss of freedom that we are currently experiencing."
Shelley Rose, interim director of the Anti-Defamation League's southeastern region, said Campfield's follow-up did little to address the underlying issue.
"I don't consider this to be an apology or a repudiation of his remarks," she said. "Our concern is that irrespective of the issue he's talking about, to make an analogy to what happened to the victims of the Holocaust is unacceptable and offensive."
Campfield, who has a long history of controversial statements and legislative initiatives, faces primary and general election challengers this year.
Republican Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, who called Campfield's remarks "over the line," said it will be up to voters to determine his colleague's political fate.
"He's the one who has to answer for this, he's the one who's on the ballot in August, and he answers to his constituency," Ramsey said. "He hasn't called me for counsel, so whatever he does it's on his shoulders."
The national attention to Campfield's comments comes as the state hosts the Republican National Committee's spring meeting in Memphis this week. Chris Devaney, the chairman of the state Republican Party, said the senator's comments shouldn't reflect poorly on the state GOP.
"Stacey Campfield does not speak for the Republican Party, he doesn't speak for the tea party — he speaks for himself," he said. " His latest comments were over the top, they were ignorant and he needs to apologize for them.
"And he is not being contrite and he is not being apologetic," Devaney said. "He will have to answer to the voters."