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. Marko

    That has been the strategy used by the republicans for many years. It is a Karl Rove strategy. It was a Goebbels strategy. That has been written in newspapers, magazines, the internet, everywhere and attributed to Goebbels. Same strategy with "death panels". This is right out of the book and the repubs have been rabidly employing it. Unfortunately, like back then, too many people today are believing it.

    January 19, 2011 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  2. Mike, formerly from Syracuse

    Gee, isn't calling people Nazi's racist? Oh, I forgot, that's only applies with Obama. You can spend your whole life searching, but will never find bigger hypocrites than liberal Democrats.

    January 19, 2011 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  3. George B from Ohio

    I'm outraged! How dare you insult the good name of Goebbels!

    January 19, 2011 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  4. Regina

    Nothing new here. GOP: Good Ol' Pinocchio.

    January 19, 2011 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  5. Bubbashrimp1

    Medicare, Medicaid, the Military Health systm (VA system), public workers at the federal, state, and local levels. The Prescrition Bill,, state and local hospitals. Mrs. Obama and her $317,000 salary at a hospital as a community representative (nice!). Goebel's, just listen to the democrats if you want to hear a N-azi. NATIONAL Socialism was Socialism driven by the nation, vs. Soviet International Socialism. YOu're beginning to get it. Be careful what you ask for. End of life panels=Genocide of the sick and infirm and elderly.

    January 19, 2011 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  6. Doc10

    Every time I read comments by you morons on cnn, I want to vomit. In this country, you are entitled to your belief. I can only tell you one thing. While I will agree with about 10% of the mandates in this the health care bill, I have seen the real numbers. It's not pretty. This law is unsustainable. WE CANNOT AFFORD IT. Many of you are liberal because of your of the way you were raised. You just don't have a clue, and I understand that. Its not too late. Wake up and smell the coffee. The numbers are posted all over the internet. Do some research and learn something. Please, for the sake of our country.

    January 19, 2011 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  7. Dean

    People need to learn to READ! He did not say they were Nazis. He said "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" NOWHERE did he say they are Nazis. The problem here is that people have no critical thinking skills, so they make illogical, irrational connections. Goebbels was a propagandist, and *that* is what Cohen was equating Republicans to. GROW UP PEOPLE!

    January 19, 2011 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  8. Sniffit

    "Truth is not a value from the left in case anyone doesn't know it "

    Everything he said was verifiably accurate. Hitler and the Nazi's did live and breath the idea that if you create the "Big Lie" and then repeat it often enough and loud enough, people will begin to believe it is actually the truth. His example of "health care reform is a government takeover" winning for biggest lie on Politifact is also verifiably accurate...not to mention that the underlying premise, that "government takeover" is a big lie, is also verifiably true, because nobody reading and understanding the bill would consider the government telling you to buy PRIVATE insurance and then helping you pay for it if you can't afford it is a "takeover." If it is, then it's a "government takeover" whenever the government enacts any legislation whatsoever affecting an industry and, as a result, the government has already "taken over" everything. The faulty logic required to reach the conclusion that thte government has already "taken over" everything should be fairly obvious. Moreover, the litany of other "big lies" told by the GOP over the past 2 years in the effort to make health care reform "Obama's Waterloo" is fairly lengthy. I had honestly thought Politifact was going to give the crown to that "Death Panels" nonsense from Jaberwocky Barbie.

    January 19, 2011 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  9. Fed Up

    And so goes the new "civility." Oh, wait. That only applited to Republicans and the Tea Party. The Dems can still lie and get away with it.

    January 19, 2011 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  10. GI Joe

    The republicans have lied so much for so many years that they have become PARANOID thinking everyone lies. The lies have been proven to be lies over and over and over and over.


    January 19, 2011 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  11. todd

    There is nothing wrong with calling republicans liars – lord knows they know how to do that well enough.

    But seriouisly, Nazi propaganda? Aren't we just being a little hyperbolic?

    January 19, 2011 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  12. Gregory York

    Thank you Rep. Cohen for telling turth about Republicans. Thank you! 🙂 🙂 🙂 I am happy to see that.

    January 19, 2011 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  13. Jim

    I am so happy that someone will call the Republicans out on this! I am sure that deep down the Republicans know this is a farce and that it would actually increase the deficit to repeal and it would be cruel to take health care away from millions of
    Americans but they are trapped becuase they campaigned on this issue to get elected. They are trapped by their own rhetoric and all they can do is twist the facts and tell outright lies about the health reform bill.
    Let's hope that we can get this charage over with and start tackling some real problems!

    January 19, 2011 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  14. Former Republican - Now Independent

    Thought everyone was supposed to dial back the language.

    January 19, 2011 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  15. Sniffit

    "■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."

    CBO studied all of them and, while they test well in conservative focus groups, they were found to be insufficient to produce a market environment that would result in costs decreasing to the point that everyone (or mostly everyone) could afford coverage. In fact, CBO reported that the GOP's main ideas, when combined, would only result in about 3 million more people being covered by 2019, at which point the population would have grown sufficiently for us to have about 50M uncovered, despite that 3 million.

    Of course, the CBO is the one that's just fabricating things and telling the "Big Lies," right? You know, despite CBO having a Panel of Econmic Advisors and a Panel of Health Advisors, every one of whose bios reads like a "who's who" of doctoral and life experience brainiacitude. Yeah, that's right, I said brainiacitude.

    January 19, 2011 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  16. telrider

    Republicans are worse.

    January 19, 2011 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  17. Kyle

    Why are the disgusting Democrats so hateful. And hypocritical? Just look at this thread for all of their nastiness and hatred. Words incite people to violence – remember?

    January 19, 2011 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  18. Mike

    Tact is separate from truth. The congressman surely lacked tact when he made his statement, and given recent events, people are right to call him on it. He was wrong to compare Republicans to Nazis. However, he is exactly right to call the Republicans liars.

    And for those on the right who have issue with the Congressman's statement. If you don't want Democrats to fight fire with fire, then maybe you should stop starting fires!!!!!

    January 19, 2011 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  19. Gary Swanson

    I'm no Tea Partier and I'm not a Republican but if Rep Cohen thinks that his comments are going to help tone dowm the rhetoric he's sadly mistaken. Now is the absolutely WRONG time for this kind of thing. By the way, after going through a year seeing posters of Barrack Obama characterizing him as a Nazi complete with a Hitler moustache I'd rather not hear any whining from conservative Republicans either. What Cohen did was stupid but you guys brough part of this upon yourselves. Everyone, please shut up.

    January 19, 2011 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  20. DAVE

    some said in the 1930s that what you needed to do as a leader is "tell a big lie tell it often and it will become the truth! its like the republicans of a few years back " lie about weapons of mass dustruction , lie about how bad they are , scare the people to death" than go to war! before we are done in the middle east we will have spent close to $4 trillion dollars and many lives and the guy we were after is still alive. now the repuublicans who pushed for the war say we are to broke to have national healthcare. republicans waste more time in washington with their filibuters in the senate and the time they are wasting in the house trying to repeel health care which has a zero chance od passiif these republicans worked for me and wasted the time and money it takes to run the house and pay all the aids i would fire all of them.

    January 19, 2011 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  21. EddyL

    And he RIGHT....

    January 19, 2011 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  22. Obvious1

    Hmm.... NAZI short for National Socialist Party, eh Mr. Socialist Democrat?

    January 19, 2011 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  23. kaneda

    Hmmm.. they passed the healthcare law mandatory for people to get healthcare or be fine.. Who is going to monitor the health care system? We the people or the government? More like healthcare law written by Nazis..

    January 19, 2011 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  24. mike andrews

    So much for listening to the presidents call for toning it down...nice job!

    January 19, 2011 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  25. Russ139

    The similarities between Nazi Propoganda and Republican rhetoric are eerily similar (yes, i used the same word twice.) Not to the same scale, of course... but the way both the Nazis and the red-meat conservatives frame everything in terms of fear and evil and fear.

    The German people supported the Nazis because they believed, or wanted to believe, that 1) they were superior to others, and 2) the others were trying to ruin their German lifestyle (which just happened to be the highest calling on the planet.)

    Sounds right up the middle of conservative passion.

    January 19, 2011 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
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