RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- A former Democratic National Committee chairman apologized Sunday for suggesting that Hurricane Gustav's expected arrival as Republicans prepare to open their national convention is a sign God favors Democrats.
During a flight from Denver to North Carolina last Friday, Don Fowler - who was DNC chair in 1995 and 1996 - was recorded telling a fellow passenger that it appears Gustav will make landfall on Monday.
"That just demonstrates that God is on our side," Fowler added, according to a video posted on YouTube under the headline: "Fowler Fouls: Hurricane is God's Favor To Democrats."
The person who recorded the conversation is not identified. The person whom Fowler was talking to is not visible in the video, but was identified on the conservative Web site http://www.redstate.com as Rep. John Spratt, D-S.C.
On Sunday, Fowler told The Associated Press that he was making fun of comments made by the Rev. Jerry Falwell, who after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, said the attacks were God's punishment for abortion, homosexuality and other sins.
"This is a point of national concern. I think everybody of good will has great empathy and sympathy for people in New Orleans," Fowler said. "Most religious people are praying for people in New Orleans. There is no political connotation to this whatsoever. This was just poking fun at Jerry Falwell and the nonsensical thing he had said several years ago."
Fowler said if anyone was offended, he apologized.
"I don't believe in a God that's vengeful. I believe in a God that's compassionate," he said.
South Carolina GOP chairman Katon Dawson called Don Fowler's comments "disappointing and despicable."
"A storm is not a partisan event and that is what they've done. I am outraged," Dawson said, speaking by telephone from St. Paul, Minn., where the Republican National Convention is scheduled to start Monday, but may be altered because of concern over Gustav.
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