Far-right Polish official steps back from radical comments

A new member of Poland's right-wing government has appealed on Facebook for public support amid a political storm over his previous far-right and anti-West statements

WARSAW, Poland -- A new member of Poland's right-wing government has appealed on Facebook for public support amid political outrage over his previous far-right and anti-Western statements.

The controversial appointment of Adam Andruszkiewicz as Poland's deputy minister for digital affairs comes at the start of a year that will see European and local parliament elections that are crucial for the future of Poland's ruling conservative party.

Observers say by appointing nationalist lawmaker Andruszkiewicz, 28, a former leader of the extreme-right All-Poland Youth organization, the ruling Law and Justice party wants to widen its voter base and neutralize right-wing competition. They say the ruling team expects Andruszkiewicz, a graduate of Bialystok University, to attract young, educated voters who are generally opposed to the ruling party.

Critics say his past statements against hosting U.S. troops in Poland, and against migrants and gays, should bar him from government posts. On Friday, the American Jewish Committee's Central Europe office on Twitter called his appointment astonishing, given the reports of rising anti-Semitism in Europe.

The opposition Civic Platform party has also raised questions about whether Andruszkiewicz was properly vetted for any ties to foreign intelligence services, including Russia.

State officials argue that his views have evolved and his social media activity qualifies him for the job.

Last week, Andruszkiewicz distanced himself from his controversial past declarations, saying he was not making them as a lawmaker. But as a parliament member, he has criticized top European Union official Donald Tusk, Poland's former prime minister.

On Facebook late Thursday, Andruszkiewicz said he was being subject to a "slanderous witch hunt."