House Democrat compares Republican 'lies' to Nazi propagandist
January 19th, 2011
04:11 PM ET
11 years ago

House Democrat compares Republican 'lies' to Nazi propagandist

Washington (CNN) - A House Democrat compared Republicans to one of the most reviled Nazis during World War ll– ignoring efforts on both sides of the aisle to tone down the political rhetoric.

Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tennessee, used a late night House floor speech Tuesday to hit Republicans for what he called "lies" about a government takeover of the health care system, and evoked Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels.

"They say it's a government takeover of health care, a big lie, just like Goebbels. You say it enough, you repeat the lie, you repeat the lie, you repeat the lie and eventually people believe it," he said.

Cohen, who is Jewish, went on to compare that "lie" to the term "blood libel," a phrase that historically was used to falsely accuse Jews of killing Christian children. In present times, the term has come to be understood by some as any false accusation of murder. Sarah Palin used the term last week, but Cohen did not mention her by name in his speech.

"Blood libel. That's the same kind of thing. The Germans said enough about the Jews and people believed it and you had the Holocaust. We've heard it over and over again on this floor, government takeover of health care. Politifact, non-partisan, Pulitzer Prize winning 2009 St. Petersburg times said the biggest lie of 2010 was government takeover of health care because there is no government takeover," said Cohen.

Cohen made his comments after the formal health care debate had concluded for the night Tuesday, during what is known as special orders. Members of the minority party traditionally use this time to come to the House floor to make speeches, generally to a nearly empty chamber.

In a telephone interview with Cohen Wednesday he stood by his comments.

"I didn't see anything wrong with it. Goebbels was the great propagandist of probably the 20th century, and his whole theory was if you tell the lie over and over again people will believe it," Cohen told CNN.

Still, Cohen said he didn't believe he was comparing Republicans to Nazis.

"I wasn't trying to say, never would say, haven't said and wouldn't say that the Republicans are akin to the party that he [Goebbels] was a part of, but they [Republicans] did lie and they've said the lie over and over again," Cohen said.

"The fact is that the government takeover of health care is a lie," he said.

"I don't think I was comparing the Republicans to Goebbels. I was saying that lies are lies and Goebbels was the great perpetrator of lies and that's a danger, and if you look at Goebbels you can see the lie that he told about Jews which he constantly did, became considered fact in Germany that the Jews were evil, and people got involved and didn't stand up."

Cohen also denied his comments ignored his party leadership's pleas to tone down the rhetoric following the shooting of their colleague, Gabrielle Giffords.

"I think civility is not lying, and if you can't come up and say that somebody is lying when they're lying, then the lie becomes the truth. That's not uncivil to say somebody lied," he said.

But, after several questions about the appropriateness of evoking a Nazi to make that point, Cohen did say that "there are no Nazis in Congress, there are some liars, but no Nazis."

Cohen said he has not heard from his party leadership about his remarks.

Filed under: Congress • Republicans
soundoff (134 Responses)
  1. John D.

    Yea, that's how to change the rhetoric you leftist M-O-R-O-N! Quit your Whinning! Pelosi is out!

    January 19, 2011 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  2. Sarah Foreman

    Sarah sure is a fahn-lookin' woman. You gull just git out there and play politics. We gone make mistakes, but they are, too. Everthang's will be fine. Obama ain't got no more chance in 2012 than a kerosene cat in hell with gasoline drawers on.

    January 19, 2011 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  3. Tulsa

    Put a sock in it. Lies are lies. period. no need to evoke Nazis. Childish and ignorant talk from someone who should be acting like an adult.
    Yes, call them on the lie. It is one. Make your point without the vitriol and name calling.

    January 19, 2011 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  4. The Real Tom Paine

    Is anyone surprised? People cherrypick what they want to believe all the time, no matter what the facts are. I frankly think the time for this comment stinks, but thats beside the point. We have passed a Rubicon of sorts, and we need to decide what we are going to do going forward: to continue to lie and spin and demonize, or do we actually look at solving the problems.

    Think about it.

    January 19, 2011 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  5. carlos

    and rightfully so.......the republicans are nothing but the scum on this earth.......and to those of you so called christians: the truth should be spoken and the aforementioned is 100% THE TRUTH.

    January 19, 2011 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  6. Protect and Defend Freedom of Speech in the USA

    I expect to hear calls from all on the left for a full retraction, an apology on the floor of the House and an offer of resignation for this despicable hate filled rhetoric less than 2 weeks after his colleague was shot.

    Why is the left in this country so violent and hate filled? Mandatory psych evaluations should be required of all of them.

    January 19, 2011 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  7. GOP = Greed Over People

    Hey cons, it is just words and they have no consequence, remember?

    We all get to say what we want under the guise of "freedom of speech, so let the man speak!

    At least it was not accompanied by a graphic with citizens pushing naked republiKKKans into a gas chamber!

    January 19, 2011 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  8. Margie

    Finally a Democrat calling the republicans what they are...HE HIT THE NAIL RIGHT ON THE HEAD. All they do is lie lie lie. but then the stupid people who listen to fox and rush, well they don't know any better.

    January 19, 2011 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  9. Marcus

    A bit too strong.
    True, it seems that their only strategy (rather than come up with an alternative that is workable) is to repeat their debunked lies over and over and over again, and to some of them TRUTH doesn't not matter anymore, just the lie in which they solely and passionately believe in.
    But still... too strong.

    January 19, 2011 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  10. ToGetherWeStand

    Even though I do not like this type of rethoric, we have to admit that the gop has been way too poisonous in the past 17 years to get anything truly positive done for our country.

    January 19, 2011 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  11. Former Republican, but never again!

    He shouldn't have used the Nazi reference, but the rest was 100% accurate. Government takeover of the health system and death panels WERE the biggest lies of 2010.

    January 19, 2011 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  12. Inmyopinion

    Wow, so now it's okay to compare Republicans to Nazi and use the term Blood Libel but if a Republican does it than it is offensive and Sarah Palin is considered uneducated because she used the term Blood Libel. Of course, he now denies it, now that he said it and most likely got people angry at Republicans and Sarah Palin. Why didn't he just address the point that if we don't buy a health insurance policy we will then have to deal with the IRS as the penalty is a TAX due to the IRS.

    January 19, 2011 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  13. Kyle

    I think the title of this article is awful. It leads to the idea that this congressman directly called Republicans "Nazis" – which isn't true. Yes, that allusion is possible – but it's drastically different from other congresspeople and political figures ACTUALLY calling people Nazis.

    I don't remember much of CNN pointing out THOSE instances of people utilizing the Nazi rhetoric in the titles of articles – and as a liberal Jew, I think I'd have been incensed while reading those articles and would have come over to see the article and would have remembered those instances. For shame, CNN, for grasping at straws to find a left equivalency to the rhetoric of the right!

    January 19, 2011 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  14. gt

    ah ... yea lets tone down the mean spirited debate. in washington...stupid talk from a very stupid person...., ..

    January 19, 2011 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  15. Four and The Door

    Cohen said he has not heard from his party leadership about his remarks.
    Of course not. His party has no leadership. He is a Democrat.

    I don't know if I would agree that ObamaCare is a full blown government takeover of health care, but injecting this law into private industry and so thoroughly changing the competitive structure of it sure heads in that direction. The worst thing about ObamaCare though, is that it will be so ineffective. Costs will go up and quality will go down. There are also so many political buy-offs with this legislation that the average taxpayer will get slaughtered with it. We can do better and the Republicans have presented so many ideas about how. Obama and the Democrats just ignored this input to their own peril and to the peril of the American health care system.

    January 19, 2011 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  16. Rickster

    lol...democrats once again showing what hypocritical tools they are and why people regularly point and laugh at them.

    January 19, 2011 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  17. Brain User

    He is 100% correct. People believed Republican lies about Obamacare because they needed so badly for these lies to be true. Even when confronted with evidnece, with undeniable proof that they were told lies, people still chose to believe them. I have never seen anything like this. Why are people so pig-headed?

    January 19, 2011 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  18. Eric in RTP

    Dana Bash wrote this article... enough said. Comparing someone to a Nazi or hostage taker and calling people out for their intentional greed, evil and lies is nothing compared to saying to use your 2nd amendment rights, putting rifle targets on congress persons or enticing a mob through violent rhetoric. Only a fool (Dan Bash) cannot see the difference. Those who have eyes see, those who have ears hear.

    January 19, 2011 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  19. LGNY

    As an advocate for civility in public debate, this time it's a Democrat who has gone over the edge.

    His pseudo-retraction quoted in the story is lame. He should apologize and use more moderate language.

    I do believe that he is correct in his assertion that lies have been repeated endlessly about the current law - enough to fool some people into believing them. Just look at the things posters are writing on these blogs. Nevertheless, that is no excuse for trying to tie them to the Nazis.

    January 19, 2011 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  20. Bill

    So ... what he is saying is this ... N A Z I S lie.. Republicans lie ... that is what I am saying .... what does the public do then?

    If N A Z I S lie and republicans lie then N A Z I S = Republicans... Its a legal trick used in courtrooms to get a point out ... even if it is over ruled by a judge ... the seed has been planted....

    The net result is .... you figure it out.

    January 19, 2011 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  21. Duck Fallas

    Goebbels would be offended.

    January 19, 2011 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  22. Mickey, NY

    Rep. Steve Cohen is spot-on. Republican Politicians are nothing but domestic terrorists and should be treated as such. They win the House, and what do they do? They squader their first weeks trying to repeal something that will never be repealed.

    January 19, 2011 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  23. Emma

    Somebody finally speaking the truth, couldn't agree more

    January 19, 2011 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  24. Tony in Maine

    Headline writers should be a bit more circumspect. Most people never get past the headline and first paragraph, and then assume they have read te article. Cohen didn't call Republicans Nazis, he did say Nazis used a common political tactic of those arguing from an untenable position – lie and repeat until the tiny brained hear it often enough to think it's the truth. Goebbels was a master of doing that. The Republicans, for whom truth is incredibly elusive, use the same tactic.

    January 19, 2011 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  25. concerned liberal

    @Kyle "It leads to the idea that this congressman directly called Republicans "Nazis" "

    Oh yeah and Palin didn't REALLY suggest hurting anyone with gunsites on a web page.

    January 19, 2011 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
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