Sen. Frank Niceley invoked Hitler to argue for a bill to criminalize camping on public property.
Hitler "went on to lead a life that got him in the history books" after being homeless, he said.
He added that Hitler led "a very unproductive life." Critics say the bill unfairly targets the homeless.
A Republican state senator in Tennessee invoked Nazi leader Adolf Hitler to support his argument in favor of a bill that would criminalize homeless encampments on public property.
Speaking during a Wednesday debate on the bill, which would classify camping on public property as a misdemeanor punishable by a $50 fine or community service work, Sen. Frank Niceley argued that homeless people can "come out of these homeless camps" and lead notable lives.
"I wanted to give you a little history on homelessness," said Niceley. "1910, Hitler decided to live on the streets for a while. So for two years, Hitler lived on the streets and practiced his oratory, and his body language, and how to connect with citizens and then went on to lead a life that got him in the history books."
"So, all these people — it's not a dead end, they can come out of this, these homeless camps, and have a productive life or in Hitler's case, a very unproductive life," Niceley went on, referring to the German leader who seized power in the 1930s before initiating World War II and carrying out the Holocaust, which resulted in the systematic killing of millions of people, including 6 million Jews.
—The Republican Accountability Project (@AccountableGOP) April 14, 2022
Hitler did experience a period of homelessness, including living in a hostel for the homeless in Vienna from 1910 to 1913. A struggling artist at the time, he later said it was the "harshest and saddest" period of his life.
The Tennessee bill, which was later approved by the Senate on a 22-10 vote, now heads to Republican Gov. Bill Lee's desk. It comes after the state made camping on state property a felony offense in 2020.
According to News 9 in Chattanooga, the bill enables local law enforcement offices to punish people who are homeless at their discretion, with the fine not being mandatory. It also allows for a citation for the first offense.
"It just breaks my heart that we are criminalizing people who have no where else to go," said Democratic state Sen. Brenda Gilmore, according to News 9, adding that the bill could separate homeless individuals from their children.
Nicely is no stranger to controversy. In 2009, he and 3 other Tennessee Republican lawmakers joined a legal effort to try to force President Barack Obama to turn over his birth certificate in order to prove that he was born in the US. Niceley contended at the time that some of Obama's Kenyan relatives said the president was born in that country. And in 2017, he told E&E News that carbon dioxide, emissions of which are a major driver of climate change, is "not a pollutant, it's just as natural as oxygen."
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