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. Eric in RTP

    @Brain User

    I agree with you, but "Saddam" has weapons of mass destruction was the biggest one in recent history. I mean they said it over and over and over again until we were convinced to go to war. Still no WMD's... ?

    January 19, 2011 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  2. Kyle

    @Four and The Door, you do realize that the majority of the political buy-offs were in attempts to woo Republican votes, right? Also, that the remainder of the bill is nearly identical to the bill in Massachusetts, championed by Willard "Mittens" Romney, a Republican?

    January 19, 2011 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  3. ps

    Some one needs to stand up to distorting the truth, or the distortion becomes the truth.

    Did you hear the one about Republicans claiming that the recent signs of economic growth are becasue of their election wins in Nov. That is a distortion of the truth, if not a flat out lie.

    Call it what you will, but politicians of all stripes lie, it's just that the republicans do it with the full realization yet feel no guilt or accountability.

    January 19, 2011 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  4. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Dems you're a day late and a dollar short with this on-point assertion.
    This is what you all should've been screaming to the four winds wayyy back during the Healthcare debate era when the Rethugs were indeed spewing dangerously inciteful lies about the reform, going as far as to refer to Death Panels. Where were your voices then Dems? The ONLY voice in the wilderness was our President's while the rest of you hid behind him and dodged the 'political' bullets.

    Forget the name calling. The American public is waking uo, thank God, and they are listening to facts. All you Dems have to do is stick together behind your cause- America-, and let the President along with the rest of you in clear and concise words tell the people all the good work that you've accomplished on THEIR behalf. That's all you need to do to differentiate yourselves from the Rethugs. Dems work FOR America, Rethugs work for THEMSELVES and their rich patrons.

    Stick to to the truth and stop being so scared of bullies in the play yard. Look to your President, he didn't quit, don't you punk up on us.

    January 19, 2011 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  5. Bubba

    I agree; tell a big lie, tell it often and loud, and people will believe it. Worked for Hitler and it works for Palin.

    January 19, 2011 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  6. DebbiefromVA

    And the left defends his hate speech. Hate speech is hate speech spoken either from the right or left. Those leaving supportive comments would be screaming for his head if he were a conservative.

    January 19, 2011 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  7. Denker

    Right on the money.
    It is scary how easily the masses accept what is being tossed in front of them as long as is fits within their scope of the world. If you don't even try to distinguish between simplified truths, lies, propaganda and reality then you forfeit the right to even mention the word "freedom" because you are going to be one of the its coffin nails. Just like all those bad bad Nazis who just followed and followed and followed and followed....all the way until May of '45.

    January 19, 2011 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  8. civility is cool

    Using the term "Nazi" is perhaps a bit strong. That being said, the part about Republicans lying with regard to the bill is 100% correct. And isn't it ironic that the very posters on this site who call President Obama and Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid the most VILE names are now the ones compaining about this?

    January 19, 2011 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  9. Marcus

    Rickster – laugh and point at those who you disagree with is SOOOOOOOOOOO mature and polite of you art, not.

    Protect and Defend Freedom of Speech in the USA – You should change your pen name to Protect and Defend Hypocrisy in the USA, that's how little your posts weight.

    January 19, 2011 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  10. Jacob

    you could tone down the Nazi comparisons, but using "liars" to describe the GOP is just factual and accurate

    January 19, 2011 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  11. Alverant

    And what exactly have the Republics done to town down the dialog? If anything they're getting worse. Now that they got a taste of their own medicine, then they start whining. I guess only conservatives have freedom of speech in this country.

    January 19, 2011 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  12. stacy

    He is absolutely correct in his statements.
    Republicans have lied constantly about the healthcare reform bill that is now law. They have scared the daylights out of their ignorant followers and shamed them to get in line with what they want.... POWER AT ANY COST.
    Calling a liar a liar is not wrong. Blame the liars (republicans) not the man who has the guts to stand up to them.

    January 19, 2011 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  13. civility is cool

    "We can do better and the Republicans have presented so many ideas about how"

    Really??? Then they must be whispering it in your ear because the rest of the country sure hasn't heard their great ideas!

    January 19, 2011 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  14. Brain User

    GOP is citing obsolete studies and quoting them as Gospel in their efforts to repeal the "job-killing healthcare bill". These studies were performed before the bill was ever finalized. Most experts won't even do an analysis on the job cost of this bill because they mostly think it will be minimal at worst. Go to What is really funny is that even when the politicians are confronted with the falsehoods from where they have formulated their argument they respond with.. "This is a job-killing law, period. Anyone who argues otherwise is ignoring the construct of the health care law and the widely accepted facts." – House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's Spokesman Brad Dayspring

    January 19, 2011 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  15. cecilia

    way to go Tennessee – it is about time a Democrat stood up and told it the way it really is. this entire vote to repeal Health Care Reform bill is nothing but grand standing – the tactics the Republicans have used from the beginning has been based in fear.

    January 19, 2011 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  16. Silence Dogood

    He didn't call Republicans Nazis: he compared their speeches to Goebbels' who was a Nazi, he said their tactics resembled that of the Nazis, and he said they hope to brainwash the masses into believing their story, like the Nazis. See, totally different.

    January 19, 2011 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  17. The Real Tom Paine

    @ Protect and Defend Freedom of Speech in the USA:

    its the height of irony that anyone on the Right feels threatened by replies from the Left. The history of this country is replete with hate-filled speech masquerading as patriotism from those claiming to protect my rights. Only yesterday CNN ran a clip of a couple who defended Palin in song, with a refrain about locking people up. If it were up to people like you, you would lock up, deport or execute anyone who opposed your blinkered vision of what this country is about. I'm not asking you to shut up or go away, I'm asking that you control yourself. The reference to Goebbels and Nazi propaganda techniques, however uncomfortable and unpleasant, is closer to the mark than the death panel scare or any of the other charges that have been leveled at liberals over tha last 90 years. You are more than willing to exercise your free speech rights, but also be prepared for the response. If you can't handle it, don't go there.

    January 19, 2011 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  18. Lee Bartholomew

    Ahh yes. CNN. Mostly the left has tried to tone down what is already toned down. course the right is toned up and refuses to tone down. So when a lefty does it it's big freaking news. Yawn. Think I'll go back to sleep. Bout as bad a fake news as the uproar over the Christian Brother comment in a bloody church. Hello he's in a church.. Do love the comment about Pelosi's out. really ? when? Think she's still in. See jumping to conclusions on the first comment.

    January 19, 2011 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  19. Flynn

    Unless Hitler lives among us now but upon hearing this goes back in time to cause the holocaust then this is not the same as the Republicans consistent calls to arms and revolution against government through actual physical violence.
    It is however, an overused lazy analogy. Although, in essence correct.
    Anyway. Glenn Beck is the modern version of Goebbels although his motives appear to be financial rather than ideological.

    January 19, 2011 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  20. Randy

    That's not correct Republicans and the Democrats lie to the American public on the behalf of corporations and the super rich, not to support their government like the Nazis did.

    January 19, 2011 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  21. JoeT

    It's about time.

    January 19, 2011 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  22. johnrj08

    Cohen is right, but he could have made his point without resorting to Goebbels or Nazi Germany. The 'Big Lie' is a propaganda technique used by all propagandists, regardless of ideology. Pelosi and other top Democrats need to condemn this rhetoric immediately if they want to avoid charges of blatant hypocrisy. My guess is that they will. Something top Republicans never do.

    January 19, 2011 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  23. Ric

    Go 1:1 with a 'Conservative' Republican.
    Try to get a straight answer.
    You'll quickly notice repeated boiler-plate utterances that don't address anything.
    No matter how passionate and factual you phrase your retorts...
    ... you'll get the same boiler-plate utterances.

    Simple phrases like 'Tax & Spend', 'Job Killer', ....

    There's no thought to their responses.

    And when you really back them into a corner, your character & patriotism would be questioned.

    Yah... the Republicans go Goose-Stepping, in ideology.

    January 19, 2011 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  24. CyndyP

    It is amazing to me how the Republicans will lie about just about everything in order to justify their wrong-doing. They are beholding to the companies and lobbyists instead of the American People. The people that believe them are the same ones that belong to the NRA and believe Obama wasn't born in this country. They don't give a crap about what is right for the country, only for their beliefs and they are the ones that turn out to vote religiously. Until, the rest of America, that turned out to vote for Obama, starts showing up for all elections, the nut jobs will continue to dictates the direction of the country!

    January 19, 2011 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  25. Bruce

    It was the truth, but he should have toned-down the rhetoric. Just call them out on their lies. Yes, they are using similar tactics to nazi propaganda, but now is not the time to call names. Just use facts.

    The Republicans are lying about the Health Care Law. They want to remove it without having anyting to replace it with.

    January 19, 2011 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
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