The Kansas Tea Party candidate hoping to unseat Republican Sen. Pat Roberts apologized Sunday for publicly sharing and mocking graphic X-ray images of deceased patients.
"Several years ago I made some comments about these images that were insensitive to the seriousness of what the images revealed," Dr. Milton Wolf, a radiologist, wrote on his website.
"Soon thereafter, I removed those images and comments, again several years ago. For them to be published in a much more public context now, by a political adversary who would rather declare war on doctors than answer serious questions that Kansans have, is truly sad."
Wolf has presented a challenge to Roberts, the conservative senator whose disapproval ratings have gone up in the past year and who has been criticized for not spending enough time in Kansas. Still, Roberts leads Wolf 49% to 23% among GOP primary voters, according to a recent poll.
A spokesman for Roberts quickly issued a statement about the postings, which were first reported in Topeka's Capitol-Journal. "Allegations of such lack of judgment demand extensive scrutiny and investigation," spokesman Leroy Towns said.
The 2010 X-rays taken from a postmortem exam were posted to TheWolfFiles.com and Facebook. Wolf then initiated a Facebook chat around the images, including one of gunshot wounds to a victim's head, according to the Capital-Journal. When questioned about the positioning of the man’s head in a comment, Wolf replied “It’s not like the patient was going to complain.”
Wolf, who said he legally uploaded the images for medical research purposes, poked fun at the gruesome photos in the comments, posting "It reminds (me) of the scene from Terminator 2 when they shoot the liquid metal terminator guy in the face at close range and it kind of splits him open temporarily almost like a flower blooming."
The medical community criticized Wolf's actions, even doubting the legality. "It doesn't sound like they're being protected if they're, obviously, on Facebook," John Carney, president of the Center for Practical Bioethics in Kansas City, Mo. told the Capital-Journal.
Wolf first drew attention by touting a distant family relationship to President Obama and then claiming that as a doctor, it would be unethical to support the Affordable Care Act. His candidacy has been endorsed by groups aligned with Tea Party organizers.
While Wolf said Sunday that "my mistakes are my own and I take full responsibility for them," he also took the opportunity to attack his opponent, calling Roberts a bully.
"Pat Roberts has not been able to identify a single issue on which he thinks I am wrong and so he’s doing things the Washington way: character assassination. Kansans should know that I will not be intimidated by their bullying."