(JTA) — U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, a Tennessee Democrat, expressed regrets about his use of Holocaust terminology in attacking Republicans during the debate over health care reform.
"I would certainly never do anything to diminish the horror of the Nazi Holocaust, as I revere and respect the history of my people," Cohen said in a statement released Thursday. "I sponsored legislation which created one of the first state Holocaust Commissions in America and actively served as a Commission member for over 20 years."
Cohen stopped short of a straightforward apology, instead regretting how his remarks were "portrayed."
"I regret that anyone in the Jewish Community, my Republican colleagues or anyone else was offended by the portrayal of my comments. My comments were not directed toward any group or people but at the false message and, specifically, the method by which is has been delivered.
"It is disappointing that my comments have been used to distract from the health care reform debate. It is my hope that we can return our focus to the matter at hand — health care for 32 million Americans."
Cohen, addressing the House of Representatives Tuesday night in a debate over a Republican bill to repeal last year’s health care reforms, likened GOP claims to tactics used by the Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels.
"They say it’s a government takeover of health care, a big lie just like Goebbels,” he said. He also called the Republican claims a "blood libel."
The National Jewish Democratic Council, one of several Jewish organizations to criticize Cohen for his comparison, said on its website that it welcomed what it described as an apology.