Republican Maine state Sen. Michael Willette said this week that he was sorry for implying that the terrorist group ISIS was President Barack Obama’s “family reunion,” and that he was “as far away from being a racist as you can get.”
In a March 1 Facebook post, Willette had displayed an image of the president with superimposed wording: “Why haven’t I done anything about ISIS? Because I’ll deal with them at my family reunion.”
“I’ve been very good over the last year and a half about not posting things about Obama, but this one was too good to pass up,” Willette added in a caption. “I promise this will be the last one for some time.”
After Democrats called the post “bigoted” and “racist,” the Republican lawmaker took to the Senate floor on Wednesday to issue a formal apology.
“We need to show restraint, especially myself in this instance,” Willette told members of the Senate. “I would like to publicly apologize for my actions and ask for your forgiveness.”
Willette said that he had been “profoundly disappointed” by President Obama’s policies.
“And that frustration led me, against my better judgement, to make several criticisms of the president that were completely inappropriate,” he continued. “I can promise to you that this mistake in judgement will not be repeated.”
While speaking to reporters after his remarks to the Senate, Willette insisted that he was not a “birther” or a racist.
“I’m as far from being a racist as you can get,” Willette said, smiling. “When I served in the military, I had, you know, a vast array of friends. And any connotation of racism in those posts, if that’s what it was construed to be then that is not the intent.”
But according to the Bangor Daily News, “Willette has a long history of online hate and bigotry.”
“No one really knows who the hell Obama really is and his past is as hard to understand as Egyptian hieroglyphics,” the lawmaker had written in one 2013 post.
In another, he said that the president was “living up to his Islamic heritage.”
When Obama attended Nelson Mandela’s funeral in South Africa, Willette joked that “we change the locks in the White House before he gets back and invite him to stay right there in his homeland.”
He also took aim at Hillary Clinton, saying that Obama’s scandals would “will have its roots in her big ole ass and she won’t be able to shake it.”
And when it came to American Muslims, Willette said that he wanted to “[r]ound them up and air drop them back into the rubble and hell holes from whence they came.”
Maine Democrats have said that Willette’s apology did not go far enough, and have called for a formal rebuke from the state Senate.
“In the wake of our country’s recent tribute to the brave Americans who stood up to injustice, we find ourselves in the position of being unable to look the other way and ignore the unacceptable and less than statesman-like comments made by one of our own,” several Democrats wrote in a letter to Republican Senate president Michael Thibodeau this week.
Rachel Talbot Ross of the NAACP’s Portland chapter agreed that Republican leadership needed to hold Willette accountable.
“As an elected official, Senator Willette should and must be held to a higher standard,” Talbot-Ross noted in a letter to Thibodeau. “It is also not enough for you and members of the Republican Party to issue a statement that merely condemns this ideology.”
Watch the video below from WCSH, broadcast March 11, 2015.