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Bob Johnson, a Savannah surgeon running in the First Congressional District GOP primary, was caught on tape taking his criticism of the Transportation Security Administration to a dramatic level:
“The TSA is doing something really profound. They're indoctrinating generations of Americans to walk through a line and be prodded and probed by uniformed personnel, agents of the government, like sheep.
“Now this is going to sound outrageous: I'd rather see another terrorist attack -- truly I would -- than to give up my liberty as an American citizen. Give me liberty or give me death. Isn't that what Patrick Henry said at the founding of our Republican -- or, republic.
“People are saying, 'Now everyone wants security before anything else. I want a perfectly safe flight.' You're not going to have it. We're going to have jack-boot uniformed people in our backyards.”
Politico broke the story on the video, and the AJC subsequently obtained a copy. It comes from a candidates forum in February in Waycross. All of the other Republican candidates were there, according to the person who sent the video to the AJC.
State Rep. Jeff Chapman of Brunswick and physician Earl Martin of Blackshear are visible in the video, and Martin seems to perk up a little bit at the mention of "jack-boot uniformed people," but they do not react much to Johnson's statement. The other Republican candidates are state Sen. Buddy Carter of Pooler, St. Simons Island businessman John McCallum and consultant and farmer Darwin Carter of Alma.
Buddy Carter is seen as the front-runner, with Johnson and McCallum his most likely runoff opponents.
Via his campaign manager, Johnson called his comparison "stupid" but did not back off his criticism of the TSA. Here's his full statement:
"As a 26 year Army Ranger, head and neck surgeon and even a Christian medical missionary, I’ve sworn my life to defending this country and keeping people safe. And as a Constitutional conservative, it angers me that we are giving up our liberty to the bureaucratic TSA and spying on our own people in the name of false security and that has to stop.
“I’m very passionate about the ideals of liberty, freedom and maintaining a strong national defense, and these conservative ideals shouldn’t be at odds with each other. In the heat of the moment, while making the point that I would much rather fight the enemy than our federal government, I said something stupid and should have chosen my words more carefully.”
Update 5:35 p.m.: McCallum has jumped in the fray to condemn Johnson's remarks. From a news release:
"There are no circumstances under which a terrorist attack on the United States is acceptable. These comments are embarrassing for the people of Georgia's First District and unbecoming of someone who wants to serve in the United States Congress," said McCallum. "He was right to apologize."