Maine Gov. Paul LePage on Thursday compared the Internal Revenue Service to the Gestapo -- for the second time in five days.
“What I’m trying to say is the Holocaust was a horrific crime against humanity and frankly, I would never want to see that repeated,” the Republican governor told a reporter for Seven Days, a Vermont weekly. “Maybe the IRS is not quite as bad — yet.”
“But they’re headed in that direction?” the reporter asked, according to audio of the conversation posted online.
“They’re headed in that direction,” LePage affirmed.
LePage made his original comments during his weekly radio address Saturday, blasting President Barack Obama's health care overhaul and telling listeners they "must buy health insurance or pay the new Gestapo – the IRS." A statement posted on the governor's website Monday said it "was not my intent to insult anyone, especially the Jewish Community, or minimize the fact that millions of people were murdered." The statement added, "the use of the word Gestapo has clouded my message."
But in an exchange with reporter Paul Heintz, LePage doubled down on the comparison and said the IRS is heading the direction of "killing a lot of people," just like what happened in Nazi Germany.
Heintz: "Do you have a sense of what the Gestapo actually did during World War II?"
LePage: "Yeah. They killed a lot of people."
Heintz: "And so the IRS is headed in that direction?"
Heintz: "They’re headed in the direction of killing a lot of people?"
Heintz: "Wait are you serious?"
LePage: “Yeah, I’m very serious."
LePage went on to explain that "rationing" is the reason he's so concerned about the IRS.
"They ration health care in Canada, that's why a lot of people in Canada come down to the U.S.," he said. "I’m saying the federal government is taking away the freedoms of Americans to make choices."
Later in the interview, LePage said the Holocaust "is probably a bad example."
“I apologize to Jewish Americans if they feel offended,” he said. “But I also apologize to Japanese-Americans that were put in prison during World War II, and I also apologize to those people who were accused of being Communists during McCarthyism, because that’s not the American way.”
When pressed, LePage said he "didn't know" if the IRS was moving toward interning Americans like in World War II.
Maine Democratic Party chairman Ben Grant told Seven Days that LePage's latest remarks left him "speechless" and wondering whether he was "fit to hold office."
“It took me about 15 minutes to get my jaw up off the floor. I was speechless,” he said. “We’re used to Gov. LePage spouting off with insensitive, offensive remarks. But what he said today, he’s basically put all his chips in the middle of the table on the side of totally unhinged conspiracy theories. I think we really have to question at this point whether he’s fit to hold office."
Listen to LePage's remarks below, via Seven Days: