Richard Cordray, the Democratic candidate running for governor of Ohio, said he regrets an "inappropriate comparison" of local Republicans to Nazi supporters that he made during a March speech, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported.
Cordray was speaking to the Allen County Democratic Party Women's Club, and was criticizing Republicans in Ohio for not standing up to Gov. John Kasich against local government fund cuts in 2011.
"Somebody said to me last month that they're 'Vichy Republicans,' which I didn't fully understand," Cordray said of the Republicans. "I guess that's 'Vichy France' during World War II, the ones who went over and collaborated with the Nazis."
What is the backlash to the comments?
A spokesman for the Cordray campaign said Cordray regrets the situation, but did not issue an apology for the remarks.
"Rich believes Ohioans deserve elected representatives who will stand up for what's right, even if that means speaking out against people of their own party," spokesman Mike Gwin told Politics Extra. "He regrets repeating someone else's inappropriate comparison in making that point."
Jon Husted, running mate to GOP candidate and state Attorney General Mike DeWine, criticized Cordray for not speaking for himself and apologizing.
"@RichCordray you know better than this: Don't hide behind your spokesperson," Husted tweeted. "You said it, just apologize."
Cordray's conment also provoked the Republican Jewish Coalition to condemn him, and to call on state Democrats to demand an apology from their candidate.
"This is wholly unacceptable @Rich Cordray," a post on the RJC Twitter account read. "Your deep lack of understanding of the historical significance of what you said is disqualifying & offensive. You owe the people of Ohio an apology."
What is the historical significance?
"Vichy France" refers to a French regime that existed during the German occupation of France in World War II that collaborated with Nazi Germany in the Holocaust.
During World War II, France signed an armistice with Germany after the German Blitzkrieg pushed deep into French territory in 1939 and 1940.
The French signed an armistice with Germany in June 1940. Shortly afterward, the French Parliament voted to abandon the nation's previous government, the Third Republic, and voted to give World War I hero Marshal Philippe Petain full power.
The authoritarian "Vichy France" government was born, named for the spa city it operated out of while Germany occupied the northern half of the country and held millions of military war prisoners.
Even before being pressured to do so by Nazi Germany, the Vichy French government enacted harsh anti-Semitic policies, partially scapegoating Jewish people for France's fall at the hands of the Germans.
The Vichy French government arrested and deported thousands of Jewish people, often separating children from families and sending them to concentration camps.
The collaboration of the Vichy government with Nazi Germany represents a severe blemish in France's history, one that many citizens struggle with and that President Emmanuel Macron has acknowledged and condemned even as some French leaders claim that Vichy did not represent France.
"It is convenient to see the Vichy regime as born of nothingness, returned to nothingness," Macron said last summer. "Yes, it's convenient. But it is false. We cannot build pride upon a lie."