Ex-Dem Chair Apologizes for Hurricane Remark

ABC News' Teddy Davis Reports: Former DNC Chairman Don Fowler apologized on Sunday for joking in a private conversation that the timing of Hurricane Gustav demonstrates that God is on the side of the Democrats.

"If this offended anybody, I personally apologize," Fowler told ABC News. "It was a mistake, and it was a satirical statement made in jest. And one that I clearly don't believe."

Fowler was secretly recorded by the person sitting behind him while flying from Denver, Colo., to Charlotte, N.C., following the Democratic National Convention. His conversation with Rep. John Spratt, D-S.C., was anonymously posted to YouTube and highlighted by RedState.com, a conservative blog.

Watch it HERE.

"One doesn't anticipate that one's private conversation will be surreptitiously taped by some right-wing nutcase," said Fowler. "But that's the nature of what we're dealing with."

Fowler, a superdelegate who endorsed Hillary Clinton in 2007, was caught on tape saying: "The hurricane’s going to hit New Orleans about the time they start. The timing is -- at least it appears now that it’ll be there Monday. That just demonstrates that God’s on our side. [Laughter] Everything’s cool."

McCain and RNC officials announced on Sunday that they will suspend most of the convention program for Monday, including speeches by President Bush and Vice President Cheney. Republicans will only take up essential business when their convention gets underway on Monday and will not hear primetime speeches.

Fowler said his remark was "facetious" and a "satirical comment" on the late Rev. Jerry Falwell.

Following the terrorist attacks of 9/11,  Falwell told "The 700 Club," "I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America. I point the finger in their face and say 'you helped this happen.'"

Falwell, who later apologized, said he viewed the attacks as God's judgment on America for "throwing God out of the public square, out of the schools. The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be mocked." 

Fowler sought to contrast his religious views with those expressed by the late Rev. Falwell before his death.

"I believe in a benevolent God," said Fowler. "I'm a religious person. It was a facetious statement, some might even say satirical, play off of what Falwell said."

"If it offended anybody. I'm sorry for that," said Fowler. "I don’t think anybody in America wishes for something bad to happen to New Orleans. I certainly don't."

After the video surfaced on RedState.com, Fowler, the former DNC chairman and Spratt, the South Carolina Democratic congressman with whom he was talking, were pilloried by the chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party.

"The outrageous behavior of two of the Obama campaign's highest profile supporters in the south is despicable, a cynical politicization of life and death," said Katon Dawson, the chairman of the South Carolina G.O.P. "I call on Barack Obama to immediately denounce Fowler and Spratt and demand sincere apologies from these members of the Democratic leadership."

Fowler was unnerved by the experience but he said that he does not think that people should be prohibited from taping such conversations.

"I have to say that I  am a free speech advocate and would not suggest that people should be prohibited from taping such conversations," said Fowler. "But nevertheless it seems to be a bit extreme to tape a private conversation like that."

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