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. BJs65

    He is 100% correct. Nazis were FAR RIGHT Extemenists.

    If the shoe fits...wear it. Telling lies to scare people against this is wrong. If you're going to fight it, then fight health care reform for its merits. Not based on lies.

    January 19, 2011 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  2. irene

    Thanks for telling it like it is. A lie is a lie, even if it is civil and the GOP has done more harm with their continual and pathological lies than any foreign terrorist. Also, stop wasting precious time in the house posturing for the repeal of this bill. It will never pass the senate or get signed by Obama and they know it. Why isn't the GOP creating jobs like they promised instead of this BS. Oops – they just got caught in another campaign lie!

    January 19, 2011 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  3. PDXSerric

    As a left-leaning American, I have to say, C’mon Dems. You can’t call for an end to the rhetoric from the right and then actively engage! Show some maturity and stop the nonsense. No wonder no one has any faith in the government any more.

    January 19, 2011 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  4. JOhn

    The call was for a more civi " AND HONEST" debate. The repuclicans keep forgeting that part.

    Differences of opinion are what our government runs on. The repulcians increasingly make comments that they know are not true. THey references sources that don;t support thier claims and they are fully aware of it. That's fine if your a talk radio host but in their rush to emulate and follow all those directives, they have become just as dihonest and just as worthless as their source. It is un American and the people need to demand it stops no matter what party is doing it and no matter what party benefits from it.

    January 19, 2011 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  5. Adalbert

    Building something requires skills like the ability to imagine, plan, execute, ect. Demolishing on the other hand can be done by any idiot. So, the republicans will do what they are good at i.e., destruction and obstruction.

    January 19, 2011 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  6. Glenn Koons

    Ah the liberal belief in civility.
    With Kos, Media Matters, the entire MSM lying daily about Care, the economy, jobs, borders all to give Bama a boost, the rep. now looks like a soviet flack from Pravda. Not one fact, of course. Libs do not deal in facts but emotions to get another specific group roped into for them. Some of the posters here are products of that type of liberal brainwashing and it should amaze no one that we are now 36th among nations for educational superiority. Free speech, liberty, free enterprise never allows the libs to get away with those lies and that is why they yearn so much to eliminate Talk Radio, the Net, so called FCC rules on Fairness and Fox.

    January 19, 2011 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  7. Mikey

    While I agree with him about the lying, can we all just stop calling people we disagree with Nazis or socialists or facists or communists. It's no less stupid when a Dem does it as a T-partier. And to you T-partiers – the fact that this idiot did it is not an excuse for all your (as a group) behavior (10 times as much as the left has done) since you suddenly woke up and discovered the national debt on 1/20/09 (by some strange coincidence).

    January 19, 2011 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  8. Derick Trammell

    I've had enough of both parties lies. They need to BALANCE the BUDGET and go home!

    January 19, 2011 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  9. Paul

    I agree somewhat. I believe both parties are using the father of modern propagandas ideas to effect their policy. However I am sure Joseph Goebbels would love Sarah Palin. Think Mrs Sarah Louise Heath Goebbels, a marriage made in hell. She and her handlers must have studied Mr. Goebbels.

    January 19, 2011 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  10. Dean

    From the quote given, Rep Cohen did not say "Republicans are Nazis". What he said was that they are using the same tactics that Goebbels used – to repeat a falsehood until it becomes 'the truth'.

    Unfortunately, too many people are trying to find something to be outraged about and then use that to accuse the 'other side' of being 'hateful'. Goebbels was a great propagandist. He just happened to be a Nazi. Saying that you are acting like Goebbels is not saying you are acting like a Nazi, but that you are acting like a propagandist. There is nothing hateful about that if one can accurately make that connection.

    January 19, 2011 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  11. sonny chapman

    He should have called them what they are:liars, demagogues, race-baiters, fear- mongers, propagandists, but not Nazis.

    January 19, 2011 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  12. UhNooYawkah

    Tulsa's right–good point but can be made without foolish vitriol

    January 19, 2011 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  13. Canadian Health Care

    If all you pin heads that want to socialize your healthcare would come spend a year in Canada your views about Obama care would change in a flash. I spent 25 years in the US and had the greatest health care in the world. Yes, it cost me a bit but nothing to the huge taxes I pay here in Canada the past 6 years for nothing. Our health care is a joke. For Canadians, if you have money, you go to the states for your health care, if you don't, you die.

    January 19, 2011 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  14. Robrob

    For all the people whining about this, while not the most "politically correct" there wasn't anything innacurate in his comments. BTW, no, he didn't "compare the Republicans to Nazis." He said their constant lying about the health care system was like Goebbles' theory of the "Big Lie."

    January 19, 2011 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  15. Hangar 13

    All Repugs are liars. There won't be any Death Panels, lies, lies, lies. Of course, bureaucrats will necessarily decide when life-saveing care will be available and when it won't be, but as long as the law doesn't title it "Death Panel," we can act like good little lemmings and call the opposition liars. And by the way, I like the way the liberals have toned down their hate-filled rhetoric in accordance with the President's recommendation.

    January 19, 2011 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  16. annie s

    rep. Cohen is speaking truthfully. The Republicans have lied and created false fears about the health care bill in an intentional and potentially dangerous way. Sarah Palin's use of the term Death Panel – when no such thing exists – is the perfect example, as is calling their repeal stunt the repeal of the "job killing health care bill". It's all theater – but theater that can harm.

    January 19, 2011 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  17. JOhn

    Once they repeat the lie over and over then they turn to a poll that says how many people buy into thier lies. The majority of those that do not like the bill do not like it because they have no idea what is or is not in the bill because of all the lies from the right. The opposition is not because of the bill, they admit this regularly, the opposition is a way to damage the president and get themselves more power. The bill that past was origionally a repulican plan in the first place. The right does not care if the bill helps or hurts the country, they only care about how they can use it to further their party. Shame on anyone that votes for these clowns and then calls themselves American.

    January 19, 2011 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  18. Dan

    I don't agree with the rhetoric, but – the fact is that a) he's right, and b) there are many other cases where the Republicans want or use Nazi-like tactics: wanting people to have to show ID cards in Arizona (and everywhere); endorsing racial profiling; denouncing anyone who opposed the war as unamerican; equating support for the President with being a loyal citizen; and the list goes on, and on, and on. But yes, above all, the propoganda campaign led by Fox and the Republican party seems to be the most permanently devastating to the U.S. Climate change is another fantastic example of this.

    January 19, 2011 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  19. Expat American

    After 8 years of Bush, and the past 2 years of obstructionism and more of their dirty lies; Republicans, once again sound like collaborators complaining of mistreatment.

    “Please stop hitting us; we’re human beings too….”

    January 19, 2011 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  20. buc

    Republicans don't lie. Republicans don't lie. Republicans don't lie. Republicans dont' lie. They just distort the truth beyond reconition. Republicans don't lie. Republicans don't lie.

    January 19, 2011 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  21. Sniffit

    What? He's 100% correct on this one...shoe fits. The GOP has been playin BIG LIE politics for the past 2 years like it's the greatest thing since sliced bread (and used it wantonly before that anyway).

    "Why are people so pig-headed?"

    Studies show that those who self-identify or fit the personality traits as "conservatives" exhibit extreme intolerance for having to change a viewpoint because reality got uppity and told them "you're freekin wrong"...far more so than people who self-identify or fit the personality rtaits as "liberals." They also have a far higher tendency to form a predetermined conclusion. So, when confronted with contrary facts and evidence of a deeply held belief that they want very mucch to cling to, there's generally some level of freak out: subconscious mental defense systems kick in...rationalizations (like conspiracy theories), selective listening (they truly just ignore whatever is inconvenient), denial ("the CBO just happens to be lying this time when it says repeal would vastly increase the debt/deficit), etc. They had already predetermined not to like ANYTHING proposed by Obama and the didn't matter what it was. Probably the best evidence of this FACT is that what ended up hitting the signing table was legislation remarkably similar to what the GOP proposed in response to Clinton's proposal in the 90's...not to mention people talking about wishing for Obama to fail and making health care reform his "Waterloo." The conservative leadership knows all this, which is why they use focus-group-tested talknig points and play to the fear, anger, resentment, prejudgments (including racial and other forms of bigotry) of their base. Vehement adherence to ideology is their panacaea because it allows them to view everything from within a vacuum echo chamber.

    January 19, 2011 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  22. Robert

    The fact is a goverment take over of health care just as the so called death panels associated with it is a lie and any comparison to Nazi propaganda in regards to the republican porponents of this lie in no way diminishes the truth of it.

    January 19, 2011 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  23. Diana

    In Canada we have health coverage. We pay through taxes. If we have to wait a bit for an operation, we wait. I had spinal surgery 3 years ago. No bill at the end. We do not lose our houses to pay for medical expenses. We do not use up our life's savings.

    Why are some Americans speaking out strongly against coverage? It doesn't make sense.

    January 19, 2011 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  24. tom

    I don't agree using nazis to get the point across but I do agree with pointing out lies from either party.

    January 19, 2011 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  25. michaelam

    Not the greatest choice in words, but so very true! The GOP/Tea Bags only hope for ultimate power is to lie, spread hate, and fill people with fear! Without those tactics, they have NOTHING! They are completely void of any new ideas or solutions to our nations's problems!

    He, Mr. Speaker! Where are the jobs?! Jobs, jobs, jobs! Get off that bar stool and create some jobs!

    January 19, 2011 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
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