HARRISBURG, Pa. (CBS/AP) — A Pennsylvania state lawmaker protesting a natural gas liquids pipeline project in her neighborhood apologized Thursday for saying “Nazis were just doing their jobs too” and drawing a comparison to pipeline workers. After condemnation grew during the week, Democratic Rep. Danielle Friel Otten, of Chester County, said on Twitter that her language had been insensitive.
“Earlier this week, I tweeted an article in reference to the Mariner East pipeline in my community. The language I used in that tweet was insensitive, and I sincerely apologize for my choice of words and to all who were hurt by my post.,” Otten wrote.
Otten had maintained that she hadn’t compared Nazis to pipeline workers, and accused oil-and-gas industry media consultants of stirring up outrage.
Criticism had come from the state’s top Democratic lawmakers, the Anti-Defamation League’s Philadelphia-area chapter and the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia. The state Republican Party called on Otten to resign.
Jim Snell, the business manager of Steamfitters Local 420, which represents the workers, wrote on Facebook that his union’s members are military veterans, Little League coaches, church volunteers, Boy and Girl Scout leaders and volunteer firefighters.
“I suggest that you look up what a Nazi really is,” he wrote. “You clearly missed that topic in history class, otherwise, you would never have said what you did.”
Otten’s initial Saturday comment on Twitter was in response to complaints by a pro-pipeline organization that pipeline opponents had parked their cars to block worksite entrances and were preventing pipeline workers from doing their jobs.
In a Wednesday statement , Otten had said that she never called the workers “Nazis” and that her fight wasn’t with the workers.
“Never did I call union workers Nazis. This outrage has been manufactured and stirred up by media consultants who are paid by the oil and gas industry to silence our voices. Our fight is not with the workers, and it never has been,” she said in a statement.
She told The Philadelphia Inquirer that she didn’t mean to minimize the horror of the Holocaust, but was comparing the moral choices of the pipeline workers to anyone who says “it’s just my job” to justify a bad act.
Separately, she told the Daily Local News that she did not mean to villainize the workers.
Otten’s protest involves the 350-mile Mariner East pipeline, which is owned by Texas-based Energy Transfer LP, a multibillion-dollar firm that owns sprawling interests in oil and gas pipelines and storage and processing facilities.
This pipeline, she said, carries highly volatile liquids 50 feet from her family’s home.
The company’s projects have drawn more than $13 million in fines in Pennsylvania — primarily for polluting waterways from spills of drilling fluid and construction methods not approved by state regulators — and several temporary shutdown orders by state agencies.
Sinkholes on the lawns of homes in Chester County along the pipeline have sparked alarm from residents and prompted county and state prosecutors to investigate.
(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)