At the Conservative Political Action Conference on Thursday, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker drew a comparison between Islamic State militants and the Wisconsin union protesters with whom he has repeatedly clashed since 2011.
In response to a question about how he would deal with global threats such as the one posed by ISIS, Walker drew from his personal experience.
“If I can take on a 100,000 protesters, I can do the same across the world,” Walker said on the CPAC stage, after giving a longer answer about how he would handle ISIS if he were the president.
He walked back the comments that day in a subsequent appearance on With All Due Respect, saying, “My point was just, if I could handle that kind of a pressure and kind of intensity, I think I’m up for the challenge for whatever might come, if I choose to run for president.”
Still, following the speech and its clarification, Walker has faced bipartisan criticism for the comment. Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat and outspoken supporter of organized labor, bashed Walker on Twitter.
The comment, predictably, also did not sit will with labor leaders. Richard Trumka, president of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, took to Twitter to call upon Walker to disavow the parallel he had seemingly drawn.
But it wasn’t just liberals who took issue with the flub. Rick Perry, the former Texas governor and a possible 2016 nomination rival, at first criticized the comparison, saying on MSNBC that “you are talking about, in the case of ISIS, people who are beheading individuals and committing heinous crimes, who are the face of evil. To try to make the relationship between them and the unions is inappropriate.”
On Sunday, Perry said on CNN’s State of the Union that Walker’s clarification was sufficient.
“I think the initial response when I heard that was, ‘That’s not right. You don’t make that connection,'” Perry said. “The governor’s gone back and clarified his remarks since then, and clearly said that’s not what he was talking about. I respect that clarification and support him on that.”
Appearing on Face the Nation on Sunday, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, another potential 2016 contender, declined to address the issue.
If the reactions of his fellow Republicans can be any sort of indicator, it’s likely that the people whose votes Walker had a shot at to begin with are probably willing to let this go. While the 2012 standoff already makes him unpopular with organized labor, another high profile labor fight is going on in Wisconsin right now. On Saturday, thousands of workers poured into Madison to protest a “right to work” bill that passed in the state legislature and has Walker’s support. It bans private-sector jobs that require union membership and dues.
Walker is also not the first Republican to compare (or seem like he was comparing) Americans to ISIS. In January, Ben Carson compared the soldiers of the American Revolution to the militants.