State lawmaker & local Jewish leader react to Sen. Niceley’s Hitler/homelessness comment

The state Senator's comment came two days before Passover was to start

CHATTANOOGA (WDEF) – When the Tennessee state senate debated the homelessness bill on the floor Wednesday, it didn’t take long for people to forget about the actual bill.

In only 31 seconds, Senator Frank Niceley of Strawberry Plains equated homelessness with one of the most ruthless people in world history. Making matters worse, Friday marks the beginning of a Jewish holiday, Passover.

“I want to give you a little history on homelessness. In 19 and 10, 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 the masses, and then went on to lead a life that got him in the history books.”

Using Adolf Hitler as a success story when talking about a homeless bill didn’t exactly go over well. Especially when you find out people like Halle Berry and Jim Carrey were homeless at some point and climbed their way out. State politicians and local Jews took notice.

Rep. Gloria Johnson from Knoxville didn’t hold back. “Every day, it’s something else just outrageous is said, or legislation that comes up. It’s unbelievable every single day. I mean, you believe it, but you’re still shocked.”

Shaul Perlstein, the Director for Chabad of Chattanooga, said “I think that it is an opportunity for all of us to realize that we have to reach out and study a little more and understand the individuals in history and how they impacted others.”

Johnson: “It wasn’t that many months ago that Senator Niceley was saying on the House floor that the Civil War was not over and that the South was winning…”

So far, state Republican lawmakers have not publicly denounced Niceley for his recent statements, and it set Representative Johnson off.

“To me, they are complicit because they don’t speak out against it. If you are not going to speak out when something is wrong, then you are complicit in allowing it to happen.”

Perlstein: “The Nazis sought out every person for evil. We have to sought out every person for good. That’s the only lesson we should learn.”>

News 12 reached out to Senator Niceley’s office for comment, and received no answer.

The station also reached out to the local state senators, Todd Gardenhire, Bo Watson and Mike Bell, and none of them wanted to comment on what was said.

We asked Representative Johnson if there was any way Niceley’s comments would bring up an age limit or mental faculty restriction for running for public office. She said age shouldn’t be a factor, since there is a 90-year-old currently in the state house, and she’s still as sharp as a tack.

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