A Republican lawmaker in Tennessee stunned his colleagues Wednesday when he shared the story of a homeless man who turned his life around—Adolf Hitler. During a debate on a bill banning homeless encampments on public property, State Sen. Frank Niceley told lawmakers he "wanted to give a little history on homelessness," Fox17 reports. "In 1910 Hitler decided to live on the streets for a while," he said. "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."
"So, a lot of these people it's not a dead end. They can come out of these homeless camps and have a productive life, or in Hitler's case a very unproductive life." In Mein Kampf, the Nazi leader said his anti-Semitic and German nationalist view developed during the years he was homeless in Vienna. Critics said Niceley was wrong about history—Hitler ended up homeless through poverty, not choice—and wondered why on Earth Niceley would consider him an inspiring example, the Washington Post reports. "I'm going to have to apologize to the universe for this guy," tweeted Democratic state Rep. Gloria Johnson.
The bill, which criminalizes camping along highways and exit ramps and makes it illegal to camp on public or state property, passed 22-10, with Niceley voting in favor. Critics argued that the bill criminalized homelessness itself, perpetuating the cycle of poverty, WCYB reports. As for Niceley, he has a long history of controversial remarks, the Post notes. In October, he said the shift of companies like Ford to the South shows the Civil War "is going on, and we're winning." (Read more Tennessee stories.)