Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele (R) on Friday apologized for remarks made last week in which he compared embryonic stem cell research to the medical experiments carried out during the Holocaust, the Washington Times reports (Ward, Washington Times, 2/11). Steele on Thursday in a meeting with Baltimore Jewish leaders described stem cell research as "the destruction of human life" and compared it to Nazi experimentation on Jewish people during the Holocaust. Steele, who is running for an open U.S. Senate seat, at a Baltimore Jewish Council board meeting said, "You of all folks know what happens when people decide they want to experiment on human beings, when they want to take your life and use it as a tool." According to the Baltimore Sun, Steele's response "stunned many in the audience" (Skalka, Baltimore Sun, 2/10). The question was in response to debate over recent legislation that would fund stem cell research in Maryland, the Washington Post reports (Washington Post, 2/11). A bill (HB 1, SB 144), sponsored by state Sen. Paula Hollinger (D) and state Delegate Samuel Rosenberg (D), would require the Legislature to appoint a committee of science and business leaders to distribute $25 million annually for five years in state funds beginning in fiscal year 2008 for embryonic stem cell research projects through the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report, 2/7). Gov. Robert Ehrlich (R) also has proposed a measure that calls for $20 million for stem cell research to be put in the FY 2007 budget. The research could include use of embryonic, adult or umbilical cord stem cells provided that the research is approved by the governor-appointed 15-member board of the Maryland Technology Development Corporation (Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report, 2/10).

Apology, Support
Steele in a radio interview on WBAL said, "I humbly apologize to everyone, certainly in that room and anyone who is now following this, because that is not where my heart or where my head is" (Skalka, Baltimore Sun, 2/11). Steele on Saturday also affirmed his support for embryonic stem cell research. He also said, "I am cautious of the science and want the scientists and politicians to be smart in how we approach it," adding that research should only be conducted with "some moral compass to guide" it. Steele added that he supports research conducted at NIH, which allows scientists to extract cells "without destroying the embryo" (Marimow, Washington Post, 2/12).

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