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Friday, January 20, 2006                                                                                       View Comments

Senate candidate unapologetic for saying GOP hijacked by fanatics

sent in by Nanabanana

Ohio's Republican leader wants Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Paul Hackett to apologize for calling some conservative Republicans religious fanatics and comparing them to terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden.

Hackett was unapologetic Tuesday for the comments in a newspaper story, saying religious fanatics of any flavor should be ashamed.

"I said it. I meant it. I stand behind it," he said.

Hackett said in a Sunday column in The Columbus Dispatch: "The Republican Party has been hijacked by the religious fanatics that, in my opinion, aren't a whole lot different than Osama bin Laden and a lot of the other religious nuts around the world."

Hackett, an Iraq war veteran from the Cincinnati suburb of Indian Hill, is running for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate against Rep. Sherrod Brown of Lorain. They are vying to run against two-term Republican Sen. Mike DeWine.

Hackett also said the practice of denying homosexuals equal rights is un-American. The newspaper asked Hackett if that meant the 62 percent of Ohioans who voted to ban gay marriage were un-American.

"If what they believe is that we're going to have a scale on judging which Americans have equal rights, yeah, that's un-American," Hackett said.

Ohio Republican Party Chairman Bob Bennett said Hackett should apologize, saying his comments applied to any "people of faith" and, therefore, most Ohioans.

"These intolerant views have no place in the public debate, and I hope his fellow Democrats reject this divisive hate speech," Bennett said, while calling on Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern to condemn the remarks.

"If Bob Bennett needs an apology, he should apologize for Tom DeLay, Bob Ney, Bob Taft and Tom Noe," state Democratic spokesman Brian Rothenberg said. "This is nothing more than a smokescreen from the corruption that surrounds him."

DeLay, of Texas, and Ney, of Ohio, are Republican congressmen who have stepped down from leadership posts because of their ties to lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who has pleaded guilty to bribing members of Congress and other charges.

Taft, Ohio's Republican governor, was convicted of ethics charges for failing to report gifts. Noe, a GOP fundraiser, is charged with illegally funneling money to President Bush's re-election campaign.

Hackett said Pat Robertson, a television evangelist and former GOP presidential candidate, is an example of the kind of Republican he was criticizing. Robertson called for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and said Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's recent stroke was divine punishment for ceding the Gaza Strip to the Palestinian Authority.