Republican Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer said Monday he regretted comments comparing people who take public assistance to stray animals, but the incident continued to draw fire.
In a phone interview, Bauer said he regretted the remarks "because now it's being used as an analogy, not a metaphor.
"Do I regret it? Sure I do. I wouldn't have to be taking this heat otherwise."
In a speech at a town hall meeting in the Upstate, Bauer revisited instructions he said his grandmother had given him when he was a small child. Bauer said his grandmother, who was not highly educated, had told him to stop feeding stray animals.
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"You know why?" he asked. "Because they breed. You're facilitating the problem if you give an animal or a human ample food supply."
Bauer, 40, later said his intent was to explain the government is "breeding a culture of dependency" with its social program, which he said has grown out of control and "amounts to little more than socialism, paid for by hardworking, tax-paying families ... against their wishes."
Bauer, a candidate for governor, was widely criticized for the remarks. But there are some who think Bauer scored some political points among voters.
"The comments came across as unnecessarily cruel, and perhaps a bit tin ear," said Scott Huffmon, a Winthrop University political science professor and pollster. "However, I do believe the message was delivered."
Huffmon said the message was aimed at social and fiscal conservatives in the state, telling them social welfare is a waste of money, doesn't work and doesn't solve the problem.
That message "has been a staple" of social conservatives and evangelicals who believe personal responsibility is a key both to salvation and success, Huffmon said. Subsidizing people with social welfare takes away the incentive to be responsible, he said, explaining the viewpoint.
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