Not Exactly A “New Tone”: Democratic Congressman Compares Republicans To Nazis

Apparently, Congressman Steve Cohen of Tennessee didn’t get the memo about the new tone of civility in Washington:

In an extraordinary outburst on the House floor, Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) invoked the Holocaust to attack Republicans on health care and compared rhetoric on the issue to the work of infamous Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels.

“They say it’s a government takeover of health care, a big lie just like Goebbels,” Cohen said. “You say it enough, you repeat the lie, you repeat the lie, and eventually, people believe it. Like blood libel. That’s the same kind of thing. And Congressman Cohen didn’t stop there.

“The Germans said enough about the Jews and people believed it–believed it and you have the Holocaust. We heard on this floor, government takeover of health care. Politifact said the biggest lie of 2010 was a government takeover of health care because there is no government takeover,” Cohen said.


My first thought is that Cohen has decided to fill the shoes left by former Congressman Alan Grayson when it comes to wildly off-base, offensive, and inflammatory rhetoric on the floor of the House.

My second thought is that Politifact’s designation of that “Lie of the Year” for 2010 was nonsense, for the reasons that Billy Hallowell noted at Mediaite last year.

Regardless of one’s opinion on the Politifact designation, though, I think it’s fairly obvious that once someone starts invoking Nazis in reference to their opposition, they’ve lost the right to be taken seriously.

FILED UNDER: Congress, US Politics, , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. PD Shaw says:

    Clearly what Rep. Cohen is doing is using heated, partisan rhetoric to marginalize the opposition and eliminate the space for any middle ground . . .

    . . . just like the NAZIs.

  2. Jack says:

    And how many lies does the right have to tell before we can stop taking them seriously?

    There never were any “death panels”, so if you want to talk about “blood libel” there it is.

  3. James Joyner says:

    Well, sure the bickering hasn’t ended just yet. Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no!

  4. Dave Schuler says:

    Pfui. Comparing Republicans to Nazis: fair comment; comparing Democrats to commies: beyond the pale.

  5. sam says:

    Well, I suggest at the SOTU, some Republican congressman get up, point his finger at Congressman Cohen and yell, “You lie!” That’ll show him.

  6. john personna says:

    It is an interesting story, isn’t it? Death panels were false, and they were destructive propaganda.

    I mentioned that “slope” yesterday and I put lies and misrepresentations down at the bottom. It is one of the most evil forms of political debate.

    Now, when you accurately call out lies and misrepresentations, you have to be careful about how you say it.

    To properly use a terribly misused word … ironic.

  7. john personna says:

    BTW, if you find a liberal who is trying to seize the means of production, call him a communist, by all means.

  8. mantis says:

    The Nazi comparisons go way, way too far, for sure, but given the fact that Republicans have moved from “Repeal and Replace” with healthcare reform to “Repeal and Do Nothing,” the only conclusion I can draw is that Republicans are objectively pro death and suffering, especially for the working poor. I think Democrats should take a page from their book and call the repeal bill the “Killing Americans for Profit Act of 2011.”

  9. john personna says:

    hater, the only sense that “death panels” can be true is that you use “death panels” as a metaphoric title for something else entirely. There were to be no literal death panels.

    That is misrepresentation and propaganda.

  10. reid says:

    That Mediaite essay was weak, and the Politifact “Lie of the Year” is far from nonsense, Doug. Come on.

  11. michael reynolds says:

    This is why I believe we need a new world war. At the point where you almost start to feel sorry for the Nazis being dragged out every 8 seconds on one pretext or another, you begin to realize that we need a new ultimate evil.

    The Communists were good, but then it turned out they just kind of disintegrated after failing to master the science of growing potatoes. Plus their uniforms always sucked. Nothing even close to the sartorial splendor of a well-tailored sturmbannfuhrerzeitgeistheimlich. (Good song, though, the Internationale. We should have bought that off them.)

    Al Qaeda was good for a while, but as an existential threat? People have resorted to pretending that Sharia was coming to Nebraska. It’s pathetic. We’re a superpower: we can’t have existential enemies who have in most cases known goats in the biblical sense.

    I believe this explains the over-reliance on corporate villains and aliens as bad guys. Works in movies, not in politics. You just cannot have a Senator ranting about The Borg.

    So, we clearly need a new world war. Preferably with some people capable of designing cool-looking weapons (Stuka, Luger, Panzer) and good uniforms (SS black was so ahead of its time) and do some good graphic design (swastika) and production numbers (Nuremberg anyone?) It would also help if their women could rock the dominatrix look.

    I know: we all have hopes for the Chinese. Just not sure they’re going to step up.

  12. john personna says:

    Seriously hater?

    “Hope and Change” are two of the softest words in the dictionary.

    I bet you could achieve both in the next 5 minutes.

  13. sam says:

    athiest hater says:
    Wednesday, January 19, 2011 at 16:53


    Ah, the interregnum between the last class and the opening of dining hall. Good times.

  14. john personna says:

    come on hater … lol I guess shouldn’t complain.

    Yes hater, “hope and change” are bad things. bash them every chance you get.

  15. mantis says:

    Greg Sargent spoke to Cohen, and he’s not backing down (good for him).

    Conservatives have expressed outrage today and demanded that Dems condemn the comment, but Cohen has no intention of backing off. In our interview rejected the idea that he had compared Republicans to Nazis.

    “I said Goebbels lied about the Jews, and that led to the Holocaust,” Cohen said. “Not in any way whatsoever was I comparing Republicans to Nazis. I was saying lies are wrong…I dont know who got everybody’s panties in a wad over this statement.”

    Cohen insisted that the invocation of Goebbels was legit, given the larger context: He said that Repubicans had, in fact, repeatedly used a big-lie technique on health care.

    “There have been so many lies about the health care bill,” Cohen said, citing “death panels,” the GOP rejection of the Congressional Budget Office’s finding that repealing reform would hike the deficit, and the claim that health reform represents a “government takeover.”

    “You can’t stop them from saying that lie,” Cohen said of the “government takeover” line. “It’s their mantra. They go to bed with it. They do Yoga with it.”

    Pressed on whether such rhetoric was appropriate, given that Dems and liberals are trying to get Republicans to condemn incendiary and “eliminationist” rhetoric on the right, Cohen didn’t back down. He argued that “civility” was a matter of content as much as tone, and suggested that mendacity itself is uncivil and particularly immoral in the context of the health care debate.

    “Lies are being spread, and it’s wrong,” Cohen said. “Goebbels was the master of political lies…to lie to take health care away from people is despicable.”

    He’s right. They are liars, and their lies are strategically disseminated from the top down with orders to be repeated everywhere, over and over and over again. They know they are lying, and they know the consequences. Less people with access to healthcare, which in turn leads to more suffering, death, and economic destruction, especially among the working poor. Republicans are pro-death, suffering, and economic destruction. It’s a pillar of their party platform, built upon bald-faced lies. Good for Cohen. We need more like him.

  16. An Interested Party says:

    Feel free to criticize his allusion to Nazis all you like, but this…

    “He said that Republicans had, in fact, repeatedly used a big-lie technique on health care.”

    …is most definitely the truth…there are no “death panels” nor is there any “government takeover” and to argue that these things are real is to participate in the big lie…

  17. anjin-san says:

    > The Communists were good, but then it turned out they just kind of disintegrated after failing to master the science of growing potatoes

    There was also the issue that they did not manufacture much besides concrete, and it was lousy concrete at that.

  18. athiest hater says:

    Feel free to criticize his allusion to Nazis all you like, but this…

    “He said that Republicans had, in fact, repeatedly used a big-lie technique on health care.”

    …is most definitely not the truth…there are “death panels” and there is a “government takeover” and to argue that these things are not real is to participate in the big lie…

  19. Steve Plunk says:

    This jack booted thug is amazed at how quickly out OTB Libs jumped in to defend Comrade Cohen. Let’s make a deal, we’ll be Nazis and you be Commies. Everyone’s happy!

  20. john personna says:

    Please note Steve that I didn’t actually Cohen.

    Demonstrating that Godwin’s Law now applies in congress wasn’t exactly bright.

    I just noted the irony.

  21. mantis says:

    Let’s make a deal, we’ll be Nazis and you be Commies. Everyone’s happy!

    Oh no! We’ll be called Commies! Wait, the right has been calling the left Commies forever. As for Nazis, I can only offer this in response.

    Now, back to the effort by Republicans to make sure more Americans suffer, go broke, and die, and the lies they tell to support that effort…

  22. john personna says:

    correction: “Didn’t actually [defend] Cohen”

    “Oh no! We’ll be called Commies! Wait, the right has been calling the left Commies forever”

    Sure, fluoride in the drinking water. Classic (and classically funny) example.

  23. Idiot says:

    Cohen should know better what the Nazis and Germans were and did to make this comparison. It’s one thing to accuse an opponent of dishonesty. What Cohen did was quite another. He diminished the memory of the 6 million who died and he diminished himself in that he should no longer viewed as serious.