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. Jason

    I wouldn't have backed down. Republicans are not too far removed from Nazis. They would probably love to kill gays, illegal immigrants, etc. if they could.

    January 19, 2011 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  2. Gee

    Here we go again....the dem's trying to spin a lie that the Republicans are all about money and not for the people...typical liberal strategy used when their own progressive program gets rejected by the people and falls apart. Make the other side appear evil and say it over and over again until the ignorant liberals believe their own lie, and keep saying it until they snag a few others to go along with them...I wish just one half of the liberals posting to this site would listen to their own words and recognize that it isn't the conservatives spreading lies, its the liberals trying to sell their failed and flawed agenda....

    January 19, 2011 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  3. weequahic68

    Please ....four and the door.....just give me 1 idea of the many you have so reported that the Republicans have had regarding their health care bill...... Can't huh..........

    January 19, 2011 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  4. kmp

    I think his choice of words are deplorable but he does have a point. They have continured selling the same lies over and over again til people actually believe it is true and that is what Gobbell and his people did.

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

    Republicans on radio and TV lie all the time and pass it off as news. Cohen is 100% correct. This propaganda is being spread to further a self-serving agenda. Why else would these people be telling lies?

    January 19, 2011 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  6. Mo

    There is that gentler and kinder Democratic party. Truth is not a value from the left in case anyone doesn't know it Whatever can be said to dscredit the right whether truthfiul or not is their platform.

    January 19, 2011 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  7. Shari from Madison

    I am a democrat, but I sure wish this guy would not have compared republicans to this particular nazi. By doing this he is no better than Sarah Palin talking about blood libel. I agree with him that the republicans are lying about health care and they use half truths and propoganda with the best of us, but he could have found a better way to say this. I can't applaud him when I boo Sarah Palin for doing about the same thins

    January 19, 2011 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  8. Doledart

    @Sniffit- I'd like to see your "studies". Please post any links available.

    January 19, 2011 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  9. Randy

    Wow, I'm amazed. The outrage of the left when Hitler moustaches were be drawn on Obama and Pelosi. Nazi symbols used at tea party rallies and such. But now they all seem to be in agreement that Republicans can be compared to Goebbels. I have whiplash from watching the left flip.

    January 19, 2011 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  10. DandyStryker

    Republicans have been lying about health care from the start. Even the *name* they gave their bill is a lie; health care reform will *NOT* cost jobs. Add that lie to the others we've seen from the Republicans (death panels, etc.) and it becomes clear that these guys don't give a hoot about ordinary Americans - they are the party of billionaires. Period.

    January 19, 2011 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  11. Chimp

    Is reading comprehension that bad?
    To sum up...
    Joseph Goebbels invented a propaganda technique that involves repeating a lie often enough that people think it's true.
    Rep. Steve Cohen says the GOP used the same technique to sell the government takeover of healthcare lie.
    He also says specifically he is NOT suggesting the GOP are Nazis.

    It's not like he photoshop'd a GOP politician to look like Hitler...

    January 19, 2011 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  12. Marie MD

    It is NOT a lie because goebels actually said it and, yes, the rethugs do seem more like nazis right now than any other group ever.
    While I wish he had not said it the truth shouldn't hurt.
    @four and the door why don't you close the door behind you but before you go you do realize that this healthcare reform bill was started by dole a republican, right? Nixon was also trying to pass it and I think it goes back to Truman if I remember correctly. In other ways it is NOT a democratic in your face idea it's what it should be a national disgrace that people like the ex vp has the money and healthcare for a new (no, a heart, period) and others more worthy can't get a heart transplant!

    January 19, 2011 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  13. Dan

    Let's rehash the damaging lies that the GOP (with the assistance / at the behest of Fox) has engaged in: 1) the WMDs in Iraq; 2) the links between Saddam and Al-Quaeda 3) that Cheney had nothing to do with the ouster of Valerie Plame & her husband; 4) Death Panels 5) Government Takeover of Healthcare 6) that Climate Change is a conspiracy perpetrated by scientists 7) that there is significant scientific uncertainty that climate change is occurring 8) that health care, climate change, etc will be job-killing (there really isn't much hard evidence on this either way)... 9) that TARP would cost billions of $. 10) That Obama was responsible for TARP 11) that the stimulus package didn't do anything (or even worsened the economy) 12) that income tax cuts generate more tax revenue 12.5) that deficits don't matter 13) that we can balance the budget through cutting discretionary spending alone; 14) that Obama was born in Kenya or some other place; 15) that Obama is a secret Muslim 16) over and over and over again, the GOP has favored what I call "faith-based policy-making" (similar to truthiness). It doesn't matter what the evidence is, what the economists say, what the experts say – they govern based on faith that they are always correct and that they are infallible. It's an unprecedented amount of propoganda, hypocrisy, and lies... and amazingly, after repeating these things enough, they get people to believe these lies. If you look at the impact over time of the relationship between Fox and what the GOP says and what people believe, they have significantly and dramatically impacted perceptions of reality... to things that are simply fantasy.

    January 19, 2011 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  14. MIke

    Why am I not surprised. Actually I am surprised CNN posted the story. It's been everywhere else all day.

    I am so tired of the rancor and vitriol. I don't think the people will ever again have mature, intelligent, representation. The art of debate is lost. All they do now is attempt to belittle the other one for what they think are politcal points. When we, the people, grow up ourselves and demand real solutions without the immaturity maybe they will finally listen.

    January 19, 2011 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  15. David Scott

    Rip-publicans have lied all along about HEALTH CARE. WHERE ARE THE DEATH PANELS?

    January 19, 2011 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  16. Sniffit

    " Only a fool (Dan Bash) cannot see the difference."

    Actually, I'm 100% certain that she does see the difference: THEY ARE ACTIVELY AVOIDING IT. The "news" media needs to create a false equivalence here in order to prevent the GOP for being called out for what they've done. Why? A couple reasons:

    1. The "news" media is complicit in creating the currently virulent political climate beacuse they spent the past 2++ years uncritically re-printing the he-said-she-said game and sensationalizing anything remotely controversial...especially crazy statements made by prominent political figures...and then repeating it ad nauseum without ever questioning the statement's veracity or even its basic appropriateness. Ergo, the "news" media can't allow a controversy to exist that would provoke people into considering what I just said, because their corporate profiteering and competition for ratings, viewers, clicks and, ultimately advertising revenue, is at this point virtually 100% dependent on the controversy paradigm.

    2. Related, but much simpler to explain, is that it is far easier to sensationalize a controversy when the two parties are presented to the public as equally legitimate, having equally legitimate positions and behaving in an equally legitimate manner (or illegitimate, as the case may be). The proverbial argument about whether water is wet comes to mind. The false equivalence in this instance protects the GOP and Teatards, two overflowing fonts of controversy when not questioned or dealt with in a critical manner, from suffering damage to their position, standing, etc., as a result of their behavior and statements, thus protecting the "balance" requisite for efficient sensationalization of every little disagreement they have with Obama, the Dems and liberals in general. Widespread public recognition of the FACT that the GOP leadership was involved in dogwhistling about violent revolt and armed rebellion if they didn't get their way, while the Dem leadership was distinctly NOT involved in such nonsense, would be a major blow to their legitimacy and needs to be avoided at all costs...even at the cost of objective and truthful reporting.

    January 19, 2011 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  17. Anti-Republicrat

    The atrocious rhetoric coming from both sides of the aisle allow me to further realize why I distrust and dislike the Democrats and Republicans. Their agendas and their pockets are far more important than coming together to fix our ailing country. When will we learn that we need fresh ideas from fresh parties rather than turning to two dinosaur parties who are corrupt to the bone?

    Both sides lie and lie to their constituents until its accepted as truth. Both sides follow Nazi/Soviet ways of propagandizing to the people. Now both sides need to really shut up and sit down.

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

    If a Repubulican or Palin said this all heck would break loose. Typical Democrat – mostly all talk with no substance.

    When the Democrats get caught in something they cannot substantiate with fact but will either attack, mock, or make fun of an individual. Obama has done this as has Pelosi, and several others such as Cohen.

    January 19, 2011 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  19. Sarah in Texas

    It's a valid comparison for the point he's trying to make. His reference doesn't have anything to do with Nazi ideals, it is pointing toward the massively successful propaganda campaigns they launched at the time. People like to get all worked up when they hear the term, Nazi, but in this case I don't think it is inappropriate at all.

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

    typical hate and vitriol from the Leftwings, nothing new, BO's words obviously fell on deaf DIMS ears.

    January 19, 2011 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  21. Phil

    Fact: Goebbels has been credited with saying if you tell a lie loud enough and long enough people will believe it true. He accurately attributed the quote to the person who said it. Same as quoting or paraphrasing some one, you have to give credit to the person who said it. He did not call Republicans Nazi's, that is inferred by the writer of the article, because Goebbels was part of the Nazi Party, Dana Bash interpreted Nazi was his intention, thus making a great head line. People against the Health Care Bill have used lies to defeat it, also a fact. In the future Dana, report the facts and leave your interpretation to your opinion column.

    January 19, 2011 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  22. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    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,"
    Rethugs, you have to face it, your so-called leaderhsip, WITHOUT EXCEPTION, adopted the Goebbels approach not only as it applies to healthcare reform but to ANYTHING this administration put forth.
    The Rethugs were lockstep, and even in the face of FACTS to the contrary stuck totheir concocted lies. The end result was the outcome of the November elections. The lies were told loud enough, and often enough that the public believed them enough to vote back in the same people responsible for the decimation of our country; AND the same ones that SAT ON THEIR HANDS AND DID NOTHING to try and rebuild it.

    It hurts. But the man from Tennesee spoke the truth........too bad it was to an almost empty chamber.
    I am glad, that although belatedly, SOME Dems have found their tongue realizing that the truth in this country at least, does not stand strong in and of itself. It tooo needs to be shouted from the rooftops, and repeated over and over and over until it sinks into the ears of it's beneficiaries: the voters in this case.

    Well said sir. Late, but better than never.

    January 19, 2011 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  23. Four and The Door

    Please ....four and the door.....just give me 1 idea of the many you have so reported that the Republicans have had regarding their health care bill...... Can't huh..........
    ■Number one: let families and businesses buy health insurance across state lines.
    ■Number two: allow individuals, small businesses, and trade associations to pool together and acquire health insurance at lower prices, the same way large corporations and labor unions do.
    ■Number three: give states the tools to create their own innovative reforms that lower health care costs.
    ■Number four: end junk lawsuits that contribute to higher health care costs by increasing the number of tests and procedures that physicians sometimes order not because they think it's good medicine, but because they are afraid of being sued.

    January 19, 2011 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  24. TommyTT

    The Nazi name-calling is certainly over the top and embarrassing. I wish it hadn't happened. But the underlying message, about the right telling one lie after another while calling the left liars, is too often true. Birthers, socialism, death panels, government takeover of medicine, after years of Iraq weapons of mass destruction, adulterers impeaching Clinton for adultery, that sort of behavior certainly has poisoned the atmosphere.

    January 19, 2011 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  25. Drew

    So Godwin's Law once again rears it's head! I fully agree that the GOP, aided by their rightwing spinmeisters Fox, Limbaugh, Malkin and the rest, are indeed strategic liars, knowing full well that repetition of falsehoods is the key to creating fact from fantasy in the Internet age. I do however, think it can be done without Nazi references. There simply ARE no mild Nazi comparisons, and to make such comparisons kneecaps the argument.

    January 19, 2011 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
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