Tennessee state Republican Senator Frank Niceley is facing heavy criticism after he used German Nazi Party leader Adolf Hitler as a model of inspiration and hope for unhoused people.
Niceley offered his fellow lawmakers a "history lesson" while speaking in defense of a bill to cut down on homeless encampments that would make it a Class “C” Misdemeanor to solicit or camp along highways and exit ramps as well as criminalize camping on public and state property,
He noted Hitler had chosen to hone his oratory and people skills while living on the streets of Vienna in 1910 and suggested that Hitler's story offers a powerful example of overcoming homelessness and living "a productive life."
You can hear Niceley's remarks in the video below.
"I haven't given y'all a history lesson in a while and I wanted to give a little history on homelessness."
"In 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 the masses."
"And then went on to lead a life that got him in the history books."
Oddly, Niceley appeared to concede that Hitler, who orchestrated the systematic genocide of more than six million Jews and millions of critics of the Nazi regime, was not the best example to use in a conversation about unhoused people:
"So a lot of 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, an unproductive life."
Hitler, an unremarkable artist, applied for admission to the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna but was rejected twice. He ran out of money around 1909 after his mother, who had long supported him, died of breast cancer.
It was while living in shelters and the occasional men's dormitory that he took to the streets and first garnered a reputation for racist rhetoric, capitalizing on a climate of anti-Semitism and German nationalist sentiment that brewed in the years before World War I.
Following the war, Hitler entered politics after he impressed German Workers' Party (DNP) Chairman Anton Drexler while, ironically, on orders to infiltrate the party as an intelligence agent for a reconnaissance unit of the Reichswehr, the German armed forces.
The rest, as they say, is history, and Hitler's actions are almost universally regarded as gravely immoral.
The pushback against Niceley's matter-of-fact remarks–and the Republican Party at large–was harsh and swift.
Niceley is no stranger to controversy.
In 2009, he was one of four Republican members of the Tennessee House to announce plans to join a legal action to force then-President Barack Obama to produce his birth certificate and prove that he holds United States citizenship.
Niceley is an avowed supporter of former President Donald Trump, who regularly pushed the racist "birther" conspiracy theory alleging Obama was not born in the United States which, while false, is immaterial since Obama's mother was a United States citizen.