New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu laid into President Biden on Sunday for saying Republicans are akin to “semi-fascism” and called on the president to apologize.
Mr. Sununu said the president’s remarks were “horribly insulting” and slandered roughly half of Americans.
“The fact that the president would go out and just insult half of America … he’s trying to stir up controversy,” Mr. Sununu said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “He’s trying to stir up this anti-Republican sentiment right before the election. It’s horribly inappropriate, it’s insulting, and people should be insulted by it. He should apologize.”
In a speech last week at a Democratic National Committee fundraiser, Mr. Biden denounced Republican lawmakers and former President Donald Trump as “the ultra-MAGA party” that follows a political philosophy of “semi-fascism,” a reference to the authoritarian and ultra-nationalistic political movement led by Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler beginning in the 1920s and 1930s.
Mr. Sununu, a moderate Republican who is no fan of former President Donald Trump, said that while the GOP has some extremist members, so too does the Democratic Party.
“When we allow ourselves just to talk in these extremes, we polarize the country, we bring people further apart,” he continued. “If I remember, this was the guy that the candidate to be president at the time said he was going to bring everybody together and then calls half of Americans fascists.”
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In the speech on Thursday, Mr. Biden applied the fascist label broadly to Republicans.
“It’s not just Trump, it’s the entire philosophy that underpins the — I’m going to say something, it’s like semi-fascism,” the president said.
Other anti-Trump Republicans, such as Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, also condemned the rhetoric.
“It’s that kind of divisive rhetoric on both sides that’s really bad for America. I’ve been talking about the toxic politics and if Republicans are calling Democrats socialists and communists and we have the president of the United States calling Republicans fascist, I don’t think it adds to the overall discussion,” he said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”
Asked whether he saw any strains of authoritarianism in the Republican Party, Mr. Hogan responded: “There’s no question we see some signs of that. And I’m one of the ones speaking out.”
The White House later doubled down on calling Republicans semi-fascists, telling reporters Friday that the extreme characterization was not hyperbole.
“When you look at the definition of fascism and you think about what [Republicans] are doing in attacking our democracy, what they’re doing in taking away our freedoms, wanting to take away our rights, that is what that is,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Friday. “It is very clear.”
The stinging rhetoric comes as Mr. Biden hits the campaign trail for Democrats, who are facing headwinds in the November elections and are expected to lose control of the House and possibly the Senate.
“What we are putting before the American people is a choice,” Ms. Jean-Pierre said. “There’s a clear contrast was what is happening on that side of the island and what is happening on our side. We’re going to continue to fight for people’s rights and that is not that is something that he takes very seriously and that’s what you heard from him last night.”
Democratic National Committee Chairman Jaime Harrison also came to the president’s defense, refusing to condemn his remarks.
“The one thing that President Joe Biden has been is he’s always been consistent, and he has always been somebody who does what my grandfather used to do, which is say it plainly to the American people,” Mr. Harrison said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” Sunday morning. “What we see right now is a full-frontal attack by these extreme MAGA Republicans in this country.”
He went on to accuse Republicans of “turning a blind eye” to an “extreme agenda.”
“It’s not about the embracing — it’s calling what it is what it is,” Mr. Harrison said.
The Republican National Committee spokesman Nathan Brand said the namecalling by the president was “despicable.”
“Biden forced Americans out of their jobs, transferred money from working families to Harvard lawyers, and sent our country into a recession while families can’t afford gas and groceries. Democrats don’t care about suffering Americans — they never did,” he said in a statement.