Amid calls for his resignation, Republican state senator Michael Willette of Aroostook County has apologized for suggesting that President Barack Obama is related to members of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a terrorist organization responsible for the murders and beheadings of journalists, aid workers and other civilians in the middle east.

On March 1, Willette shared this image on his facebook page:

State Senator Mike Willette / Facebook

Bangor Daily News blogger Mike Tipping first shared this story early Monday morning, and it was quickly picked up by media outlets in Maine and around the country.

Willette responded to the backlash with a press release. In it, he apologized for sharing the post, which originated from another facebook page called “Conservative News Today,” but he did not apologize for its content.

Maine State Senator Michael Willette (R-Aroostook)

“I apologize for posting this on Facebook,” Willette said in the statement. “Like too many people these days, I fell into the trap of posting something first and then thinking later.”

Maine Democrats responded immediately and forcefully to the post, saying that Willette "perpetuated a false racial, religious and ethnic slur at a time when our state and country should come together.”

“This reflects very poorly on the Maine Republican Party and we urge their leadership to denounce Sen. Willette’s actions,” wrote party chairman Phil Bartlett.

Reached by telephone Monday afternoon, Willette denied that he intended to suggest the president was a terrorist, related to members of ISIL, or a muslim himself. "I'm not a racist," Willette said.

"I voted for the president in 2008, and I find these claims that I'm a racist just unbelievable. Nothing could be further from the truth. I know that the president is not related to anyone [in ISIL.]"
- Mike Willette

When asked if his apology for sharing the image but not the content itself might suggest that he believes that the president is a muslim, Willette said there was little more he could do. "Look, I apologized for sharing it, and I'm really not sure what more I can do at this point," Willette said. "I don't believe the president is a muslim."

The Maine GOP has not yet issued a statement.

Sen. Willette, who chairs the State and Local Government Committee in Augusta, was first elected as a Democratic State Representative. He switched to the Republican party shortly after the GOP won control of the Maine House in the 2010 election. He is the father of Alex Willette, a former member of the Maine House.