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. Bryan

    One of the first things Hitler did when he took power was institute socailized medicine. The NAZI party is after all the National Socialist German Workers' Party. Nuff said. Dems are the new NAZIs.

    January 20, 2011 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  2. Raul

    The Republicans should be proud to be compared to Joseph Goebbels. He was very good at telling the BIG LIE as often as possible. Listen to modern day Republicans and they are always on message with the Big Lie 24/7. If it quacks like a duck...

    January 20, 2011 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  3. donald l

    Hopefully this man will be voted out of office. Rhetoric such as this consumes time away from the needs of our country. What currently is underway to protect our children? I have yet to hear what plans are underway from any of our leaders.
    I have become tired of both parties pointing the finger at each other and not of what they have accomplished.

    January 20, 2011 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  4. KSR

    Don't apologize, it won't change the fact that he meant it and it is fairly accurate. Don't get so butt-hurt over rhetoric, and don't act like Republicans haven't made VERY close comparisons between Obama and Hitler including pictures. Let's move on...

    January 20, 2011 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  5. adam

    Patriots Salute...the majority of people didn't support Social Secutity, Medicaire, or Civil Rights legislation either. Do some research before you post. The rhetoric being used by the conservatives now is nearly the same as during those debates. The unfortunate truth is a good percentage of people in any country are often too stupid or ill-informed (I'll be generous and take the latter) to know what, in the long run, is good for them. I don't see the Republicans giving up their (socialistic, in every sense of the word) free healthcare for life paid for by American taxpayers.

    January 20, 2011 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  6. what's Up

    Mr Cohen was right, The republicans tells lies after lies But the difference is they dont care about the poor whites or blacks only the rich

    January 20, 2011 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  7. I have to admit

    Civility in DC lasted longer than I thought it would. My football square was by the end of the day Monday.

    January 20, 2011 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  8. Tom

    The democratic party has made itself irrelevant in this country, by no fault but their own. Everytime they open up their mouths they prove yet once again how how out of touch with reality and average Americans. It's like Joan Rivers calling Sarah Palin a nazi. You can't compare everything you don't like to – nazis.

    January 20, 2011 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  9. sheila kind

    To the Tea Party person: Democrats have not called Tea Party folks every name in the books. That's not just a silly accusation, it's ridiculous. It's interesting that you call Obama a Nazi as you are condemning Democrats or who you perceive to be Democrats. Is he a liberal or a Nazi? Make up your darn mind, will you? They are two completely different animals, by the way. Nazis are fascists and liberals are on the other end of the spectrum. When you throw out comments like that, can anyone who is halfway intelligent take you seriously? I'd personally say that some so-called Tea Party folk might actually fall into the fascist realm, but others I can't say. Maybe you're just trying to call Obama a dictator, but you'd be wrong there as well. Dictators simply dictate what their countrymen are going to do - they are absolute in their power. Obama, as the last election clearly shows, is the leader of a Democratic country. His power is not absolute but largely dictated by who controls congress. So maybe you just need to go to a class where you can learn how the country works, how it's leaders are elected and who is responsible for electing them - we the people are, by the way.

    January 20, 2011 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  10. Monster Zero

    Seeing that Obama started his political campaign in the living room of Bill Ayers, an unrepentant terrorist that led an organization known as the Weathermen in an armed assault of murder and mayhem against our established government during the days of rage 60's anti-war movement. As part of their agenda, the Weatherman, comprised of many Columbia University intellectuals met to discuss how their plans would be implemented once the government fell, they established a plan to initiate re-education camps for Capitalists, they also knew they would never be able to re-educate many Americans so they included in their plan mass execution camps. This is information is all available from the transcripts from the undercover FBI agent the infiltrated their terrorist organization, check it out, it is the FACTS. Check it out and then tell me who are the real fascist Nazis?

    January 20, 2011 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  11. Steve in Denver

    There was a part of the Hitler government that Goebbles led that was in charge of "propaganda;" I. E. distorting the world events and news to fit the political agenda. SOrt of like "spinning events, rather than being spun by events." In case you missed it, that was the mantra of the shrub.

    To acknowledge that the lying and distortion of news and repeating it often enough was a tactic originated in modern times by a member of the Hitler government, and Republicans have extensively used this tactic, is not the same as saying Republicans are Nazis.

    Neocons, particularly Rove and Limbaugh practice lie loud, lie often, if called on your lies shout them louder and call the accuser a traitor. That was made famous in government by Goebbles. That is not to say that Republicans are out to kill 6 million of some particular group, although they did use it to kill 100,000+ Iraqis and 4,500 US military in a dishonest war.

    January 20, 2011 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  12. ApeHanger

    In other news, the hillbilly from Tennessee, Steve Cohen, opened his mouth to the max and inserted his foot. His fellow and he who think Uncle Sam should take over the health care system need only to look at how it's done in the UK to see just how well the average American will fare. Health care is rationed there and in other countries with a socialist bent, though not by the government. The financial incentives to make the long commitment to become a doctor aren't there, thanks to government-dictated remuneration policies, and the result is too few medical personnel to take care of too many patients. That, my friends, is where the rationing will come from. Our fee-based system may not be perfect, but does financially reward those who have made the sacrifice to become doctors and nurses.

    Be careful what you wish for, my socialist friends. You may get it.

    January 20, 2011 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  13. AmericanSam

    While I agree with Representative Cohen's assessment of what is definitely lies on the Republicans' part, and I would say a comparison to the way that Goebbels did his dirty work was in line, I wish that for his sake and the Democrats' sake he had refrained from saying Goebbels. He made clear he did not think Republicans were Nazis even before it blew up and only said that they used the same tactics as Goebbels, but still... what did he think was going to happen?

    January 20, 2011 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  14. Rheinhold

    Being a master propagandist in and of itself isn't a bad thing though. Cohen's just butthurt that the master propagandist was a Nazi.

    January 20, 2011 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  15. Laverne

    The republicans have called President Obama everything from unamerican, hitler, nazi, monkey and God know's what else and there seem to not be a problem and now all of a sudden dems liken the republicans lies to nazi. oh please people get a life and do something useful with your time!

    January 20, 2011 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  16. Joe from CT, not Lieberman

    It appears that from all the noise coming from the Conservatives, perhaps Rep. Cohen was a little closer to the truth than they would like!
    The Republican party has used half-truths, innuendos and outright lies for the last two years to make a non-existent point. They are currently operating at the beck-and-call of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in their opposition to the Health Care bill. As a reminder, dear readers, the USCoC stands for the following: elimination of minimum wage, opposition to any legislation guaranteeing time off for any reason, elimination of overtime pay by allowing reclassification of workers, challenging any laying off of any employee to ensure "for cause" is met thus denying unemployment benefits, elimination of unemployment insurance payments, no provision for health care for employees, lowering the minimum age for certain occupations and raising the retirement age. Those provisions demonstrate the USCoC does not have the interests of American Workers (about 98% of the population) at heart. Between the Republican loyalty to them and to the NRA I don't think we will see anything productive out of the House for the next 22 months.
    Also, if the Republicans attempt to defund the provisions of the Health Care bill as promised, all President Obama has to do is return the bill on a Veto. Then we will see who blinks.

    January 20, 2011 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  17. Sniffit

    "You don't need to bring up Nazis to say that the Republicans are repeating lies."

    BS. If he had said Trotsky or even John Adams (you want some reality? read about how they designed the propaganda to get our own revolution moving), we'd probably still be having this discussion. What is REALLY driving this temper tantrum over which the media is salivating is that COHEN hit the nail on the head. For the most part, people can ignore morons running around for 2 years with signs showing Obama wearing a Nazi's silly...somewhat inflammatory...but you can just discount them for being extremists and yammering like mindlessly enraged fools. But here, we have a real threat to the carefully constructed "both sides are the same, so we whenever they disagree their positions are equal and deserve a giant controversy and debate" paradigm because Cohen spoke truth and called out the GOP establishment for playing rotten political games with deliberate, self-serving fabrications and falsehoods SOLELY because they sought political advantage. THAT is what is driving the right's whining. Had he made some senseless and unsupportable Nazi comparison, he'd simply have been reprimanded and then ignored, but this one kicked the hornet's nest because it's a Dem stinging back.

    January 20, 2011 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  18. jeff, alabama

    And these hypocritical democrats
    accuse republicans of hate speech ????
    What a simple minded dip this cat is.

    January 20, 2011 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  19. larry

    everyone knows that john king is a republican but it's too bad he doesn't go after them when they make comments about Obama that are wrong..

    January 20, 2011 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  20. Enough is Enough

    I agree with Gobbels analogy that Cohen used however it should be applied to the supports of Obamacare. They claim Obama is reform no its a new entitlement program. The other "You lie" aspect of Obamacare is that it will save money false it will cost more. The democrates would make Gobbels proud with their ability to fool the people.

    January 20, 2011 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  21. Gary Fox

    I saw the interview with Rep. Steve Cohen.
    I am in PR & Advertising
    And yes I totally agree with Rep. Cohen
    The GOP is using Nazi Era Propaganda Tactics of Joseph Goebbels.

    January 20, 2011 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  22. WiseNJ

    This is American politics. Anything goes here. Get over it!

    January 20, 2011 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  23. Don

    There is a lot of truth in what he said. We keep hearing "government health care" "socialism" etc. All things that aren't in the law, yet the people saying it just keep repeating the lie, again and again.

    January 20, 2011 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  24. Yates

    Don't you just love the hypocrisy of the left. You have lost the argument when you start calling people Nazi's. A few weeks of exploiting the shootings with no evidence and now your a Nazi -wow. Those intellectuals – haha.

    January 20, 2011 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  25. Ian

    This is ridiculous. If any party if the party of lies it's the Democrats with their Liberal Media backing them up and spewwing their lies to America. Nazi's ideology was a mix of both far-right and the far-left dare I say extreme of both so the comparison of a party to the Nazis is silly.

    January 20, 2011 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
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