Indiana State Senator Scott Baldwin, a Republican, walked back his suggestion that teachers "need to be impartial on Nazism" amid controversy over remarks he made during a legislative hearing.
Baldwin issued his remarks during a hearing on Senate Bill 167, legislation that would require schools to form committees that include parents to review all curricula.
You can hear what he said in the video below.
It all began when history teacher Matt Bockenfield, appearing at the hearing, acknowledged that he is teaching his students about the history of Nazism and fascism and noted that neither he nor other staff are "neutral on the political ideology of fascism" and, in fact, "condemn it."
Bockenfield added that the purpose of these lessons is to teach students how to "recognize" and "combat" these ideologies, part of teachers' efforts to "use history to make a better world.”
The controversy erupted almost as soon as Baldwin issued the following response:
“I have no problem with the education system providing instruction on the existence of those ‘isms.’ I believe that we’ve gone too far when we take a position on those ‘isms’… We need to be impartial.”
“I’m not discrediting Nazism, fascism, Marxism, or any of those ‘isms’ out there."
Baldwin later backtracked in a comment to Indy Star, saying he'd misspoken:
"Nazism, Marxism and fascism are a stain on our world history and should be regarded as such, and I failed to adequately articulate that in my comments during the meeting. I believe that kids should learn about these horrible events in history so that we don't experience them again in humanity.”
He added that his intent with the bill was to ensure teachers are being impartial when discussing “legitimate political groups":
"When I was drafting this bill, my intent with regard to 'political affiliation' was to cover political parties within the legal American political system. In my comments during committee, I was thinking more about the big picture and trying to say that we should not tell kids what to think about politics."
Baldwin's remarks were nonetheless swifly repudiated by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which said that “There is nothing neutral about Nazism" and pointed out that the Nazis were singlehandedly responsible for the extermination of millions of Jews and others.
Others have also condemned Baldwin's remarks.
This isn't the first time Baldwin has downplayed the actions of white supremacist groups.
Last year, Indy Starreported that his name showed up on a purported membership list for the Oath Keepers, the far-right anti-government militia whose members participated in the attack on the United States Capitol.
Baldwin denied he was a member of the group, claiming he was "not familiar with the organization" and insisting he does not "support the violence that took place on January 6th."
IndyStar noted that the amount of Baldwin's contribution to the group "corresponds to the cost of an annual membership in 2010 according to an archive of the group's website."