Despite two challenges by his opponent, Randy Bryce, the Democratic candidate in the 1st Congressional District, is refusing to apologize for a Twitter post from 2012 in which he referred to police as “terrorists.”

The Twitter post has become an issue in the campaign as the candidate’s own brother, James Bryce, has appeared in an ad he wrote criticizing the Democratic candidate. “When people refer to police officers as terrorists, that hits a little close to home,” James Bryce, a police officer, said in the television ad. “I don’t think people want to be represented by someone who’s shown contempt for those in law enforcement.”

In two debates between the candidates, Randy Bryce has been challenged to apologize twice by his Republican opponent Bryan Steil. In the first debate on October 19, Steil talked about the tone being directed at police officers.

“They’re on the front lines protecting our lives,” Steil said. “We owe a great debt of gratitude. And the words that Randy Bryce has used to describe law enforcement officers. He compared law enforcement officers – your words, not mine – to terrorists.”

After repeating what Bryce said, Steil turned towards the Democratic candidate. “I give you an opportunity tonight to apologize to the men and women of our law enforcement community for comparing them to terrorists,” Steil said.

However, Bryce was not interested in apologizing.

“Well, what happened, when, when it was referred to a tweet that happened several years ago, it was right after the Republicans referred to the people that was protesting as terrorists,” Bryce said. “I was standing up for a disabled veteran who had been roughed-up by the Capitol Police.”

However, the article linked in the Twitter posting did not have an instance of Republicans calling protesters “terrorists.” The term was attributed to Capitol Police Chief Erwin, although the article does not quote him saying that directly. It does quote Erwin accusing the protesters of “terrorizing people” in the Capitol. Protesters during the Act 10 protest and afterwards often harassed Republicans, disrupted tour groups, and even harassed journalists in the Capitol.

The article also does not refer to any instance of a veteran being “roughed up” by Capitol police. One protester who was a disabled veteran did need to go to hospital after being arrested because of a medical condition.

After getting the facts of the article wrong, Bryce continued defending using the word “terrorists” to describe police in his Twitter post.

“I’m going to call anyone out, whether you’re my neighbor, whether you’re a police officer, whether you’re president of the United States if you’re going to do something wrong,” Bryce said. “I don’t think the police are terrorists. My father is a retired police officer. I served as a military police officer in the Army. So, if you’re trying to claim, twist something around to make it sound like I have a problem with law enforcement, I don’t.”

In the second debate Tuesday night, Steil again challenged Bryce for calling police, “terrorists” in his Twitter post. “I challenged you before and I ask you tonight, I think you should apologize to the men and women of law enforcement community for comparing them to terrorists,” Steil said.

Bryce asked if he could rebut but the moderators told him the format of the debate didn’t allow that. However, Bryce declined to address the issue in his closing remarks, choosing instead to stick to his prepared statement that included a reference to the Milwaukee Brewers playing even though their season ended with a loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Saturday.

The Bryce campaign did not respond to a request for a comment on the demands by Steil for the Democratic candidate to apologize.

The Steil campaign, however, said the lack of an apology showed a clear difference between the two candidates.

“The contrast in this race could not be clearer,” said Andrew Iverson, a spokesman for the Steil campaign in an email Wednesday. “Bryan Steil backs the badge and is proud to have the endorsement of all six sheriffs in the First Congressional District while Randy Bryce continues to refuse to apologize for comparing police officers to terrorists.”

In addition to the family ties to law enforcement, Bryce has been no stranger to police. The Democratic candidate for Congress has been arrested nine times. While two arrests were for protesting, most of the arrests stem from a conviction for operating under the influence in Michigan. After the initial arrest in that case, Bryce would be arrested after failing to appear in court, driving with a suspended license, and failing to make another court appearance. When Bryce was younger, he was also arrested for “marijuana possession, property damage, trespassing and theft, though the theft and trespassing charges were dropped,” according to CNN.

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