Dem stands by Nazi comparison
January 20th, 2011
09:16 AM ET
12 years ago

Dem stands by Nazi comparison

(CNN) – Rep. Steve Cohen, the Tennessee Democrat who compared Republican efforts to criticize health care to the works of a famous Nazi propagandist, is standing by his heated rhetoric on the House Floor Tuesday night.

But in an interview with CNN's John King, Cohen said he was not directly comparing Republicans to Nazis, but rather merely suggesting they are employing the same techniques of that of infamous Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels.

"I didn't compare the Republicans to Nazis," Cohen told CNN Wednesday. "Goebbels was the master of political propaganda. He said repeat it. Make it short. Make it simple and repeat it over and over. And that's what they've done. It's not a - you just heard [Minnesota Republican Rep.] Michele Bachmann call it socialistic. That's just - they're lies."

The original comments came Tuesday night when Cohen, speaking to a virtually empty House Floor, 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."

In his interview with CNN, Cohen insists the press has blown his comments out of proportion.

"Some have in the press…seem to want to jump on anything," he said, adding later, "I think that people are looking for something. I think the press was hypersensitive. Certainly I didn't intend to do that, but the way they lied has been the same way that the master political propagandist of all time Goebbels said to lie."

Also speaking on Anderson Copper 360 Wednesday, Cohen said he wouldn't make the comparison again but declared, "I was right."

Earlier Wednesday, Cohen told CNN that he has not heard from his party leadership about his remarks and no Democratic leaders have publicly condemned them despite President Obama's call for civility in the wake of the Arizona shootings.

Few Republicans have weighed in either, though the Republican Jewish Coalition called the comments "a very disturbing development."

"After leaders of both parties called upon their rank-and-file members to choose their words with more prudence and sensitivity in the aftermath of the horrible events in Tucson, Congressman Cohen's outrageous use of Holocaust rhetoric should offend us all," said Republican Jewish Coalition Executive Director Matthew Brooks.

The Tennessee GOP has also demanded Cohen apologize for the remarks.

Update: Cohen has issued a statement further attempting to clarify his comments.

“There has been considerable media attention regarding comments I made during Special Orders on the House floor as part of a colloquy Tuesday evening. While I received no comments or responses from my colleagues on the floor at the time or, for that matter from anyone until midday on Wednesday, someone posted a small portion of the speech on the internet. Taken out of context, I can understand the confusion and concern. In speaking about the Republican message of “government takeover of health care” that has been drummed into the heads of Americans and the media for more than a year, I referenced the non-partisan, Pulitzer prize-winning judgment that named the Republican message as the “2010 Lie of the Year.”

While I regret that anything I said has created an opportunity to distract from the debate about health care for 32 million Americans, I want to be clear that I never called Republicans Nazis. Instead, the reference I made was to the greatest propaganda master of all time. Propaganda, which is called “messaging” today, can be true or false. In this case, the message is false.

I would certainly never do anything to diminish the horror of the Nazi Holocaust as I revere and respect the history of my people. I sponsored legislation which created one of the first state Holocaust Commissions in America and actively served as a Commission member for over 20 years. I regret that anyone in the Jewish Community, my Republican colleagues or anyone else was offended by the portrayal of my comments. My comments were not directed toward any group or people but at the false message and, specifically, the method by which is has been delivered.

It is disappointing that my comments have been used to distract from the health care reform debate. It is my hope that we can return our focus to the matter at hand—health care for 32 million Americans.”

Filed under: Congress
soundoff (160 Responses)
  1. MARC C

    I think employing the word Nazi to describe anything other than describing the horrid Nazis themselves is deplorable. When you cant win a debate on the merits of the case why do both sides resort to name calling. It's like grammar school tactics...out of curiosity, in debate teams across the college citrcuits is name calling and hate language allowed when your debate team isn't winning simply for arguing their point of view?

    January 20, 2011 09:44 am at 9:44 am |
  2. wiredweirdoinSF

    This man represents Memphis, TN a democrat liberal disaster zone. Absolutely entitlement heaven, drug addicts who cannot get jobs because of drug tests, absolutely horrible school system with high dropout rate, horrible crime rate, A district full of people who don't work, dont't pay taxes and sit around waiting for the democrat liberals to pay them to have more babies to vote for democrat liberals. He was among the first to blame Republicans, conservatives and TEA party for the Giffords shooting and that alone, qualifies him for the Maxine Waters Foot in Mouth Award for January, 2011. Love the libs and their hate.

    January 20, 2011 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  3. WDrad

    Funny coming from Democrats who traditionally blame all of their problems on everyone else; rich people, white people, weather, government, etc...kinda like Hitler blamed the Jews and promised his people of a glorious future. Heck, that sounds like Obamas campaign from 2008.

    January 20, 2011 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  4. Ralphyboy

    Love the double-standard Democrats!!

    Blame Palin and Rush for a shooting they had nothing to do with because of the "toxic" rhetoric, then hand out kudos to this scum of a individual for suggesting Republicans are Nazis and then have the gall to say "well it's true".

    HYPOCRITS, you love to examine others with a microscope and then you can't even look yourselves in the mirror and see what is in your own hearts. Shame on you!!

    Waiting for the ADL to come out and complain about this, but I am sure they won't.

    January 20, 2011 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  5. GI Joe

    "...... I would do my best to make you completely inefffective......"

    Typical of repubs wanting to destroy the entire world in order to get their own way. Good riddance in 2 years. We'll take the House back again.

    January 20, 2011 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  6. bobcan

    Now Republicans complain about lack of civility. It's like Satan complaining about the heat.
    Republicans always lie about health care, because they do not want you to have it. They don't wnat you to get an education or have a decent job, or live peacefully. They only want to defend the right of Americans to hate each other, since Republicans hate anyone who isn't rich or does not agree with them. And the same goes for most of the selfish, hateful people who vote for them. Very unAmerican.
    The Representative is correct in assessment of Republican tatctics on this issue. May God forgive their hateful , selfish souls.

    January 20, 2011 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  7. Sam

    Choen's comment is no more defensible than Mike Pence's "lock, stock, and barrel" remark or anything said recently by the likes of Rush Limbaugh or Sarah Palin. The heated rhetoric and toxic phrases from BOTH sides have got to stop.

    January 20, 2011 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  8. Tired of the nonsense

    Oh, puh-lese! Yes, their propaganda techniques can be compared to the 1930's Germany, but let's face it, Goebbels would have given his eye teeth for a propaganda machine like FAUX news is for the GOP. Also, since the GOP seem determined to get rid of the lower and middle class by whatever means necessary and by changing the laws, the techniques are again proven. Besides, take a look at the Bush administration. What they did mirrored 1930's Germany - but I don't expect anyone in the GOP to know that because history is not their strong suit.

    January 20, 2011 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  9. Sam

    Cohen's comment is no more defensible than Pence's "lock, stock, and barrel" remark or anything said recently by the likes of Sarah Palin or Rush Limbaugh. The incendary rhetoric from BOTH sides needs to be toned down.

    January 20, 2011 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  10. Lolo

    I can not believe that the Republicans are tripping. They are the ones who have been acting like children for two years to win the mid-term elections. Some nerve. Just like I say they are just hypocrites. The tea partiers are going to see exactly what the republicans are all about. They have used them. Had them to make all the noise and false accusations for them, while they sat back for the taking. If Sarah was so smart she would have saw through this.Now that the shoe is on the other foot they want to cry foul. They have done nothing to help the American people. They did nothing but obstuct. I do not believe or listen to anything the tea partiers /Republicans have to say or do. They are nothing but liars,haters and bigots.

    January 20, 2011 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  11. Name100% ETH

    Wheather we are Republican or Democrats; we are not sensitive enough to serve to stand for America. But, we are very sensitive to stand for our races and cultures, which could lead US power hungry, discriminations, etc.

    If we are realy American, we must stop all kinds of divisive organisations. No more NAACP, Jewish coalitions, German community, etc. Just be American or get lost.

    January 20, 2011 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  12. Bob

    He knew exactly what he wanted to do by invoking the term "Nazi", which is to scare his ignorant base of voters. Yes, where is the president, where are the democratic leaders who want us to discuss things in a civil manner.

    January 20, 2011 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  13. Brad

    Glad to see that the left is toning down the rhetoric!!


    January 20, 2011 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  14. RHN

    Well, that was pretty good. Civility lasted about 10 days.

    January 20, 2011 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  15. Nadeem

    Stupid. The entire democratic leadership should ask him to tone it down. We need to turn the page on this type of Rhetoric.

    January 20, 2011 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  16. vic nashville tn

    CNN I am disappointed still you are talking about this

    Last night Rep. Steve Cohen explain what he meant and he appeared in John king USA and Anderson Copper AC 360 last night (two show) I watched both

    Sarah Palin didn’t appear in CNN explain what she meant ‘Blood libel’
    Michele Bachmann didn’t explain her socialist comment
    Steve Cohen did the right think appeared in national media and explained

    State (Tennessee) GOP is a joke
    They made comments about Michelle Obama
    They send email "Historical Keepsake Photo."
    Now Give me break

    January 20, 2011 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  17. Kreczk

    Nazi, a much overused word. How boring.

    January 20, 2011 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  18. DonJuan1943

    Mr. Cohen does not owe anyone an apology for telling the truth on this issue. The GOP has been using incindiary rhetoric filled with lies since The Nixon Administration's conquest of The South in the 1960/70's. It's based on the Goebbels model: "Tell a lie often enough, and it becomes the truth." A small example: Congresswoman Michelle Bachman has made "Goebbelsspeak" her stock in trade.

    January 20, 2011 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  19. grwohio

    I think the over the top rhetoric needs to stop from both parties. A bigger issue may be the media. Some members of the media behaved badly regarding the Tucson shootings. Most were on the left, but the right is not without blame. I am a conservative so I may be biased in my opinion of the balance of news coverage. It just seems that most media outlets hold conservatives to a different standard on these types of issues. is one example. Almost daily this site has a link on its home page to a negative article regarding Sarah Palin. Daily??? On the home page?

    The media would do this country a great service if they could find a way to dampen the coverage of outrageous comments from political persons. Of course this might hurt ratings and viewership. It would also take the "microphone" away from persons that are more interested in spewing divisive comments than actually working on solving the problems this country faces. Again, both parties are at fault.

    January 20, 2011 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  20. Tea Partiers are Phony Patriots

    This atmosphere of namecalling and hateful language started with the phony tea party patriots and their hateful remarks about President Obama. It makes me sick to see those dolts wrapping themselves up in the flag and calling themselves patriots when in fact they are the antithesis to democracy. Barack Obama won the election fair and square, he is an American citizen, and he is our with it.

    January 20, 2011 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  21. sayitaintso

    Who hired the PR firm to promote what is commonly called Obamacare? Yep this administration.. Look it up. Who's propaganda now?

    January 20, 2011 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  22. cjr

    good for him!

    January 20, 2011 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  23. whiteraven

    I guess we'll crucify Sarah Palin for saying 'blood libel' in context but Steve Cohen gets a pass because he's a member of the right party.

    January 20, 2011 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
  24. Orlando Patriot

    And the liberals blame Republicans for the rhetoric? Typical liberal bias. Liberals will try and CREATE a controversy taking words out of context but here is a Democrat that directly state that Republicans are like Nazis? Wake up America. The extreme left is slowly taking away the country you and I grew up in.

    January 20, 2011 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
  25. cregis

    Cohen is right. Look at the titles given to bills, Death Panel , Job Killing. All propaganda. I'm tired of pols apologizing for what they've said no matter what side of the aisle. They should say, okay I said it, so what? unless what they said was truly a mistake. Did we ever get an apology for "You lie!"

    January 20, 2011 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
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