Tennessee senator uses Adolf Hitler as example for homeless people

District 8 Sen. Frank Niceley compared Adolf Hitler’s experience with homelessness to the struggles of Tennesseans.
District 8 Sen. Frank Niceley compared Adolf Hitler’s experience with homelessness to the struggles of Tennesseans. (Source: WVLT)
Published: Apr. 15, 2022 at 3:39 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 15, 2022 at 3:59 PM EDT
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - At a Senate debate on a bill that would classify camping on public property a misdemeanor, Tennessee Sen. Frank Niceley made an impact by arguing that the homeless could aspire to not just find a home but also lead historical lives- by comparing them to Adolf Hitler.

“I haven’t given you all a history lesson in awhile, and I wanted to give you a little history on homelessness,” Niceley said. “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 masses and then went on to lead a life that got him in the history books.”

WVLT News spoke with president of the Knoxville Jewish Alliance Bryan Goldberg, who said Sen. Niceley’s comments were insensitive and offensive.

As a Jewish leader in East Tennessee, it deeply saddens me to have read the comments Sen. Niceley chose to make on the Senate floor in our state capital building yesterday. I’ll admit I do not know Sen. Niceley personally, however I would hope that he realizes his comments were amazingly inappropriate. It is beyond time that all politicians stop using reference to Hitler, Nazi Germany and the Holocaust to make comparisons to modern day events. His comments were not only deeply insensitive to the Jewish community of Tennessee, but also to the individuals that work tirelessly to help the homeless in our communities and completely disrespectful to the homeless people suffering on our streets. No one chooses to be homeless as many are affected by mental illness. To make a comparison to a complete sociopath who performed horrors to our world is simply wrong and below the elected position Sen. Niceley holds.

Bryan Goldberg

Niceley, the senator for District 8, supported the bill, which criminalizes homelessness by making homeless camps near interstates, on-ramps and exit-ramps a class C misdemeanor.

WVLT News spoke to Knoxvillians about how they felt about the bill. One man said the idea of fining homeless people was offensive. “I think every decent citizen in this state should be horrified and offended,” he said.

KARM representative Burt Rosen added that nobody should be punished for their living situation. “I don’t think someone should be penalized just because they’re homeless,” Rosen said.

Niceley said he supported the bill because he believed homeless people could still lead “productive” lives, adding, “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.”

WVLT News has reached out to Niceley’s office, but has not received a response.

The bill passed in the House and Senate and is headed to Gov. Bill Lee’s desk for approval.

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