PORTLAND — Seeking to douse a fire he started by comparing the IRS to the Gestapo, Maine Gov. Paul LePage on Friday issued a formal apology for his "insensitivity to the word" after a face-to-face meeting with representatives of several Jewish groups that had complained.
LePage hopes his apology, obtained by The Associated Press ahead of its airing on his weekly radio address, will bring to an end the weeklong furor. It started when he described the Internal Revenue Service as the "new Gestapo" while criticizing President Barack Obama's health care overhaul.
"The acts of the Holocaust were nothing short of horrific. Millions of innocent people were murdered and I apologize for my insensitivity to the word and the offense some took to my comparison of the IRS and the Gestapo," the governor said in his radio address.
LePage is known for blunt rhetoric, previously telling the Portland branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People to "kiss my butt," calling protesters "idiots," referring to state government middle managers as "corrupt" and even saying he'd tell Obama to "go to hell."
His formal apology for the Gestapo remarks represents the first time he's done so.
The governor's original radio address last weekend in which he attacked the Supreme Court's ruling on "Obamacare" didn't include the reference to Gestapo, but the governor added in the final version.
The Republican governor said the Supreme Court's decision "made America less free" and gave Americans no choice but to buy health insurance or "pay the new Gestapo — the IRS."
The Gestapo was Adolf Hitler's secret police in Nazi Germany and it was ruthless in its pursuits, which included assisting the Nazi SS in rounding up Jews.
On Friday, he had a meeting with representatives from the Anti-Defamation League of New England and the Jewish Community Alliance of Southern Maine to clear the air.
"People took offense to it, and he is recognizing that. He's owning up to it and he's saying I'm sorry," said his spokeswoman, Adrienne Bennett.
Associated Press reporter Glenn Adams in Augusta, Maine, contributed to this report.