NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Republican state Rep. Kelly Keisling has drawn national attention and Democratic denunciation for using his state email account to circulate a rumor that President Barack Obama is planning a fake assassination attempt as a pretext for imposing martial law in the United States.
The lawmaker, an insurance agent, did not return calls after national blogs -- initially the Huffington Post -- reported on his email and the state Democratic party declared its assertions "ridiculous."
He issued a statement through House Republican Caucus spokesman Brent Leatherwood:
"Earlier this week, I forwarded an email from my legislative office that should not have been sent out. The message was inappropriate for distribution. I regret the error and pledge to be more cautious regarding the information distributed from my office in the future."
The email went to the legislator’s constituents and begins with a notation from his legislative assistant stating, "Representative Keisling would like to share this information with you."
It says Canada Free Press, through an anonymous source, has reported that Department of Homeland Security agents and others "taking their orders from the White House" plan a "staged assassination attempt on the life of President Obama that would be blamed on ’white supremacists’ and subsequently used to enrage black and Hispanic communities driving them to rioting all across the nation.
"The objective would be to stir up enough racial unrest to justify the imposition of martial law in major urban cities, including erecting DHS checkpoints, restricting travel, and delaying (possibly indefinitely) the November 2012 elections," the email says.
State Democratic Chairman Chip Forrester said in a news release that using "state resources to send out a rumor-filled and dangerous email is an egregious abuse of power and taxpayer dollars.
"The people of his district and of Tennessee deserve to have a representative who is focused on their well-being, not in spreading fear and inducing panic," Forrester said.
Keisling, seeking election to his second term this year, will face Democrat David Harper in November. Harper was also quoted in a Democratic Party news release.
"I chose to run because I could no longer tolerate these crackpot conspiracy theories and side issues taking priority over local needs such as jobs, education, roads, and infrastructure," Harper said.
(Contact Tom Humphrey of The Knoxville News Sentinel in Knoxville, Tenn., at HumphreyT@knoxnews.com