Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) elaborated on his controversial comparison of the Internal Revenue Service to the Gestapo on Thursday, saying the U.S. government agency is "headed" in the direction of becoming the infamous Nazi secret police.
The controversy arose last week, when LePage blasted the Supreme Court's health care ruling, arguing that it had "made America less free."
"You must buy health insurance or pay the new Gestapo -- the IRS.," he said.
In an interview with Paul Heintz of Seven Days on Thursday in Vermont, LePage stood by his controversial characterization.
"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. Maybe the IRS is not quite as bad -- yet."
LePage then said, "They're headed in that direction."
Heintz asked LePage if he knew what the Gestapo did during World War II, to which the governor replied, "Yeah, they killed a lot of people." When asked asked whether the IRS was headed in that direction, LePage responded, "Yeah."
Later in the interview, LePage clarified that he did not believe that the IRS was going to intentionally kill anyone. Rather, if it happened, it would be because of rationing.
"Do I think that the ACA is going to force rationing upon the American people? Yes," he said, predicting limitations on medical coverage based on age and diseases. "That is the clear issue."
Just a couple of days after his initial comments, LePage issued a clarification, stating, "Clearly, what has happened is that the use of the word Gestapo has clouded my message. Obamacare is forcing the American people to buy health insurance or else pay a tax. Our health care system is moving toward one that rations care and negatively impact[s] millions of Americans."
His spokeswoman, Adrienne Bennett, said LePage's radio message that will be released on Friday will also include an apology for language that may have offended people.
LePage's Gestapo comments were criticized by both Jewish groups and the head of the IRS employees union, Colleen Kelley, who said his comments could endanger the agency's employees. She said "irresponsible rhetoric and mischaracterization of federal employees can also lead to violent attacks on these workers."
LePage made his latest comments at a fundraiser for Vermont Republican gubernatorial candidate Randy Brock.
The IRS has been working for the past couple years to clear up its role in the implementation and enforcement of the Affordable Care Act. In 2010, for example, Commissioner Doug Shulman said IRS agents would not be going out and auditing whether Americans held health insurance. He said the role of the IRS is going to be “the tax portions of this, not the health portions of this,” including helping educate individuals and businesses learn about the tax incentives for which they qualify.
The Kennebec Journal also notes that the IRS plans to hire about 1,200 employees -- not 16,500, as some have claimed -- and many of them would be focused on building the "technological infrastructure to support payments and tax credits for individuals and small businesses."
Listen to LePage in Vermont:
UPDATE: 5:43 p.m. -- The Anti-Defamation League put out a statement on LePage's latest comments:
Governor LePage clearly doesn't get it. He has not heard the deep concerns of his constituents and from people around the world. Analogies to the Holocaust and the Nazis are inappropriate when discussing the IRS. They trivialize and demean millions of Hitler's victims, and offend all those who value civil discourse and respectful dialogue. We want the Governor to apologize. If and when he issues a public apology, we will welcome it.
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