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Posted at 12:33 PM ET, 01/20/2011

Democratic Rep. Cohen 'regrets' Nazi comments were 'taken out of context'

By Matt DeLong

Just one day after standing firm on his remarks comparing Republican rhetoric against the health-care overhaul to "blood libel" and the work of Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels, Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) now says he regrets "that anyone in the Jewish Community, my Republican colleagues or anyone else was offended by the portrayal of my comments."

On the House floor Tuesday, Cohen 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, and eventually, people believe it. Like blood libel. That's the same kind of thing."

In a statement released Thursday, Cohen said his comments were "taken out of context" and emphasized that he never "never called Republicans Nazis." Rather, he said he was merely pointing out that the GOP's description of the health-care law as a "government takeover of health-care" was named the "2010 Lie of the Year" by the fact-checkers at St. Petersburg Times's Politifact.org.

From Cohen's statement:

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.

Cohen's remarks came amid calls from members of both parties to cool down the rhetoric in Washington following the Jan. 8 attempted assassination of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) in Tucson. A Post-ABC poll released earlier this week found majorities say political commentators on the left and right have crossed the line of acceptable rhetoric. Last week, former Alaska governor Sarah Palin grabbed headlines when she used the term "blood libel" to describe attempts to link the Tucson shootings to violent imagery in the rhetoric of some conservatives.

By Matt DeLong  | January 20, 2011; 12:33 PM ET
Categories:  44 The Obama Presidency, Capitol Briefing  
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Comments

I believe that they all need to stop comparisons and start stating facts. Fact are what I believe is what the American people want, and not to be talk to by politicians as if all we have is a heart and no brain.

Posted by: tateofpa | January 26, 2011 8:48 AM | Report abuse

Not exactly. Mr.Cohen stood by his terms but regrets using terms that would be hurtful to jews and others..
His statement and comments were spot on!

Posted by: jetlone | January 23, 2011 3:27 PM | Report abuse

Hey Cohen you are a liar. Also, WHO took the comment out of context. You said it, meant it and now you will regret opening your mouth before thinking about it through. Pack your bags, cretin. You are done.

Posted by: nomobarry | January 23, 2011 10:40 AM | Report abuse

You tell 'em, Lonquest.
Conservatives may not have the wherewithal to understand the truth, but, as you say so well :
"If it's wrong, and you admit it's wrong when it gets proven wrong, then it's a legitimate disagreement on a matter of fact.

If it's wrong, and you continue to repeat it, long after it's been proven wrong, then it's a lie.

If you knowingly, repeatedly, and systematically speak a falsehood with the malicious intent to confuse the gullible into believeing it, for political gain, that's a Big Lie."

See http://JesusNoRepublican.Org/

Posted by: Rayosun | January 21, 2011 6:07 PM | Report abuse

You tell 'em, Lonquest.
Conservatives may not have the wherewithal to understand the truth, but, as you say so well :
"If it's wrong, and you admit it's wrong when it gets proven wrong, then it's a legitimate disagreement on a matter of fact.

If it's wrong, and you continue to repeat it, long after it's been proven wrong, then it's a lie.

If you knowingly, repeatedly, and systematically speak a falsehood with the malicious intent to confuse the gullible into believeing it, for political gain, that's a Big Lie."

See http://JesusNoRepublican.Org/

Posted by: Rayosun | January 21, 2011 6:07 PM | Report abuse

@marlendale:

If it's wrong, and you admit it's wrong when it gets proven wrong, then it's a legitimate disagreement on a matter of fact.

If it's wrong, and you continue to repeat it, long after it's been proven wrong, then it's a lie.

If you knowingly, repeatedly, and systematically speak a falsehood with the malicious intent to confuse the gullible into believeing it, for political gain, that's a Big Lie.

The "death panels" story is a Big Lie. Republicans still haven't entirely given that one up.

The "government takeover of health care" story is a Big Lie, and the Republicans are still beating that horse carcass.

The "birther" attack is a Big Lie.

The attempts to blame unions for all our economic woes is a Big Lie.

The accusation that President Obama is a Muslim (and therefore a terrorist) is a malicious, racist, religiously bigoted, incredibly divisive and cynical, Big Lie.

The accusation that either the Predsident or the ACA is Socialist is a Big Lie.

None of these issues are in dispute, as matters of fact. Each of these lies has been debunked, repeatedly and frequently. Republicans, including the Republican leadership, have continued to make these proven-false statements central to their political strategy.

If we don't expose the Big Lie wherever we encounter it, our national policies will be based on deliberate, malicious lies.

Enough said?

Posted by: lonquest | January 21, 2011 3:54 PM | Report abuse

To call this issue a "big lie" is simply demagogy. It is also uncivil. You don't agree and don't want to debate why it is or isn't, so you say it is a lie. You will not consider that there are sincere people on the other side. The reality is that it is a difference of policy, which is what policy debate is all about. There is a big difference in saying "you are wrong and I will now provide my reasons why I believe so" and saying "you are lying", which is intended to stop debate cold.

This kind of demagogy is common in political debate, especially on the Internet and unfortunately from all sides.

Posted by: marlendale | January 21, 2011 1:54 PM | Report abuse

Thanks to the following outstanding posts,
the truth has been spoken with great insight and elequence:
Posted by: Senavifan | January 20, 2011 11:48 PM
Posted by: lonquest | January 20, 2011 11:21 PM
Posted by: dl49 | January 20, 2011 4:15 PM

Posted by: Rayosun | January 21, 2011 10:50 AM | Report abuse

There's nothing wrong in America these days with SYSTEMATICALLY REPEATING political LIES. What is politcally incorrect and intollerable is to point out the similarity of that practice when done by the Republican Party in America and that of the Nazi Party during the Third Reich.

The mainstream media is proving how fair and balanced it is by allowing the Republicans to repeat LIES ad nauseum while crucifying one Democrat for telling THE TRUTH just ONCE!

Posted by: Rayosun | January 21, 2011 10:43 AM | Report abuse

I agree, commentary and speeches dredging up the specter of Goebbels and Naziism are hurtful and harmful and have no place in this healthcare debate. Now, if the tea-partiers would only quit calling those of us on the left Marxists and quit painting the "Hitler mustache" on pictures of Obama, we might have a reasonable political discourse. To all of the conservatives who were so offended by Cohen's remarks, and they were offensive, I'd remind you to clean up your own house first before you act so high and mighty. And it goes on to this day; earlier this morning I received an "alert" from a relative who
evidently does not realize I see things differently from he, warning of the Marxist Obama takeover of our healthcare.

Posted by: rtinindiana | January 21, 2011 10:09 AM | Report abuse

Cohen might have some credibility if he owned up to his own party's lie that Obamacare will reduce the deficit. Congressmen who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.

Posted by: alexandria6351 | January 21, 2011 5:04 AM | Report abuse

ah, the good ol' "taken out of context" cure all.

Posted by: jmsptrck001 | January 21, 2011 12:59 AM | Report abuse

Cohen you are a liar. Your comments were not "taken out of context."

I listened to your remarks and you now contend that his use of the Nazi's chief propaganda leader, Goebbels, was not calling Republicans, Nazi's. That is stupid. Was Goebbels a Catholic Church Official, or a Nazi?

Cohen, I noticed that you did not use the word Holacaust again. Did your Rabbi call you and tell you that you're ignorant?

Fact is, you called Republicans, Nazi's, and you insulted Jews all over the world. Apparently you were out playing with yourself when God passed out brains.

Posted by: RonKH | January 21, 2011 12:21 AM | Report abuse

The Goebell's quote:
"If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State."

The first part of this is likely a revealing statement about what you can do with the big lie. It doesn't mean that using the "big lie" makes you a Nazi though, but using a big lie leaves you in very bad company.

The congressman had a point worth thinking about, but the point wasn't that the Republican's are Nazi's or Nazi-like but that he see them as using "the big lie".

He could have done better in making the point, but the point that Republican are using a big lie in calling healthcare reform a "government takeover of healthcare" stands up. At best it's a deliberate and drastic overstatement, at worst it's propaganda.


Posted by: Senavifan | January 20, 2011 11:48 PM | Report abuse

So, if I want discussion of my tactics to be made off-limits, all I have to do is emulate the unspeakable? If I follow the play book that led to the Holocaust, I can do so with impunity, because nobody's allowed to speak honestly about my corrupt tactics?

No.

That can't be the rule. When politicians or pundits employ tactics like the Big Lie, it has to be fair play to call the foul they're committing. If we allow the Big Lie to go unchallenged, it has been proven to change the minds of large numbers of people. If you can't refer to a tactic because it was central to the political tactics of Stalin, or Mao, or the Third Reich, then you shouldn't be allowed to use it, either.

The constraints of politically correct speech should not exclude the discussion of political tactics presently in play. The Republicans have made the Big Lie a central feature of their political strategy, and the identities of those who have used that same villainous tactic in the past doesn't make it any less villainous now.

A Big Lie is a Big Lie. Death panels, the Birthers, the government takeover, Socialist, Marxist, secret Muslim, and numerous other accusations flung at the President and other Democrats have each been the product of the Big Lie tactic, accusations with no basis in fact, repeated loudly and relentlessly until people begin to believe there must be truth in it. Just the way Adolph Hitler described it in Mein Kampf.

If it's wrong to call a Big Lie a Big Lie, isn't it even worse to let a Big Lie stand unchallenged?

Posted by: lonquest | January 20, 2011 11:21 PM | Report abuse

References to Nazis or Nazi rhetoric are inflammatory and not constructive to reasoned debate on health care.

Rep. Cohen is only human, and he made a big mistake. Is it too much for him to admit his emotions got the better of him and he crossed the line?

Posted by: coastofutopia | January 20, 2011 10:51 PM | Report abuse


Let's put it his way: if, or maybe when, this country gets a Nazi Party, Republicans will fill the ranks. Can you say "Heil Rush"?

Posted by: jrw1 | January 20, 2011 10:27 PM | Report abuse

Cohen lies. I saw the whole tape and he called republicans nazis. If he had not, the ADL would not have sent him a letter signed by 1,000 people.

Obama said to calm our language. I guess Obama was not talking to HIS side!! Shame on you.

Posted by: annnort | January 20, 2011 10:03 PM | Report abuse

Who took it out of context? Cohen meant it to be taken exactly as it was received. If we not a leftist then we're Nazi's. Cohen wasn't talking just to the Republicans. The language he used is the same language Obama and the Democrats used on all the American people prior to this last election.

Posted by: houstonian | January 20, 2011 9:21 PM | Report abuse

Mr Cohen from Memphis:
I would like to recommend you read the Government control health bill (obama care) in it's entirety. Also read the liberal left-wing Newsweek article which refers to "Granny will die" Read up a little more on 1930's Germany. You'll see the free people of the US whether in TN or any other State are NOT the enemy nor are we nazis like Goebbels or whoever you are referring to from Germany. How bout making your speeches with a little common sense and respect for US citizens.

Posted by: jander4031 | January 20, 2011 9:20 PM | Report abuse

Who took it out of context? Cohen meant it to be taken exactly as it was received. If we not a leftist then we're Nazi's. Cohen wasn't talking just to the Republicans. The language he used is the same language Obama and the Democrats used on all the American people prior to this last election.

Posted by: houstonian | January 20, 2011 9:20 PM | Report abuse

Who took it out of context? Cohen meant it to be taken exactly as it was received. If we not a leftist then we're Nazi's. Cohen wasn't talking just to the Republicans. The language he used is the same language Obama and the Democrats used on all the American people prior to this last election.

Posted by: houstonian | January 20, 2011 9:17 PM | Report abuse

"Last week, former Alaska governor Sarah Palin grabbed headlines when she used the term "blood libel" to describe attempts to link the Tucson shootings to violent imagery in the rhetoric of some conservatives."

What does this have to do with Cohen's insane remark? Palin's use of an English phrase perfectly described the conduct of many on the left casting blame on the Right for setting the climate which invoked the Phoenix shooting. A spurious claim that was debunked by people who actual know the shooter, not some dumb over the hill local Sheriff!

Posted by: Hazmat77 | January 20, 2011 8:06 PM | Report abuse

"Last week, former Alaska governor Sarah Palin grabbed headlines when she used the term "blood libel" to describe attempts to link the Tucson shootings to violent imagery in the rhetoric of some conservatives."

What does this have to do with Cohen's insane remark? Palin's use of an English phrase perfectly described the conduct of many on the left casing blame on the Right for setting the climate which invoked the Phoenix shooting. A spurious claim that was debunked by people who actual know the shooter, not some dumb over the hill local Sheriff!

Posted by: Hazmat77 | January 20, 2011 8:05 PM | Report abuse

@dl49

You obviously haven't read that the Anti-Defamation League's response to Cohen. They're not happy with him:

ADL: Rep. Steve Cohen's Nazi Analogy "Offensive" and Has No Place in Civil Discourse

New York, NY, January 19, 2011 … The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today reacted to a statement made by Representative Steve Cohen (D-TN) on the floor of the House of Representatives in which he compared misinformation about health care reform to Nazi propaganda advanced by Joseph Goebbels and the blood libel propagated against the Jews.

Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director, issued the following statement:

No matter how strong one's objections to any policy or to the tactics of political opponents, invoking the Holocaust and the Nazi effort to exterminate the Jewish people is offensive and has no place in a civil political discourse.

Using the Holocaust as an analogy to express frustration or comparing false information to the anti-Semitic blood libel or to Goebbels' genocidal propaganda is inappropriate and serves only to trivialize the dangers of anti-Semitism and the unique tragedy in human history that saw the murder of six million Jews and millions of others.

We respect Representative Cohen's right to engage in vigorous debate about health care policy. We hope he will reconsider his offensive statement and we urge all members of Congress to reject such odious comparisons.

Posted by: WashingtonDame | January 20, 2011 7:56 PM | Report abuse

It's high time sombody called a spade a spade. Now, not only are you called anti-semetic if you say Israel is violating Palestinian Human rights but you can't compare propaganda tactics to those use by nationlist regimes during WWII. Pretty soon it will be an act of treason to disagree with the Republican Party.

Posted by: ArtDodger69 | January 20, 2011 6:17 PM | Report abuse

The problem is the shoe is on the other foot. The comments would have been very appropriate if they had been directed at the Democratic Party.

Posted by: RealTexan1 | January 20, 2011 6:12 PM | Report abuse

OK, Cohen, go ahead and desecrate the memory of 6 million dead to further your political agenda. What a disgrace!

Posted by: cellus | January 20, 2011 6:03 PM | Report abuse

While I don't agree with the example that Rep. Cohen used to describe the Republicans, he was absolutely correct to call them out for their blatent lies.

From death panels, to government run health care to amnesty etc.. etc.. etc.. the Republicans have no shame in telling lies as long as their sheep constituents believe it and donate money. It's about time the Repugs were called out on this dispicable behavior.

Posted by: great81 | January 20, 2011 4:59 PM | Report abuse

A a Jewish person I must vigorously object to the thoughtless post that says "Cohen is not just a disgrace to Congress, he's a disgrace to his fellow Jews."

Representative Cohen is far wiser and more insightful that the joker who wrote that post. Sadly, Rep. Cohen is on the money when he compared the Republican big lies about health care with the big lie tactics of those charming brown shirted fellow from 1920s and 1930s Germany.

Even sadder is that the big lie has become a staple of the Republican and Tea Party strategy thanks to Karl Rove and his brethren. They make up what's in a bill and attack it in the most incendiary way -- like making up the "death panels," calling the Health Care Reform Act "socialism" (as any student of political science can tell you, it's even remotely socialist), "job killing," and much more.

The Republicans and Tea Party have made illegal immigrants the scapegoat for all that's wrong in America -- which is exactly what the Nazis did to Jewish people.

In Texas and Virginia they are rewriting our textbooks to make the civil rights era practically disappear and (in Virginia) claim that slaves actually fought for the South and enjoyed slavery. Their textbooks now say the Civil War was just a dispute over states rights (an absolute falsehood -- it was over slavery, pure and simple -- as Arthur Schlesinger Sr. pointed out in his piece "The States Rights Fetish" states routinely claimed states rights when they didn't like national policy -- Wisconsin using states rights as an excuse not to honor ownership of slaves within its borders). Rewriting history is exactly the what the Nazis did in Germany.

I expect the Republican "outrage" at Representative Cohen's comments to be huge -- because he has hit the nail on its proverbial head and they know it. Those who are guilty of what you accuse them of are the ones who object the most to you saying it -- they can't handle the truth.

Rep. Cohen was talking about you Michelle Bachman, you Glenn Beck, you Rush Limbaugh, you Sarah Palin, and you Bill O'Reilly. Those who are most guilty of practicing the big lie will be the loudest objecting to Rep. Cohen's characterization of their tactics.

Representative Cohen makes all Jewish people proud when he calls out the Republicans who use the big lie. Had there been many more courageous legislators like him in Germany during the 1920s and 1930s, Hitler may have been thwarted and World War II and the Holocaust both averted.

Never forget.

Posted by: dl49 | January 20, 2011 4:15 PM | Report abuse

I'm sure Representative Cohen does regret his comments after some bad press, feedback and complaints from constituents, etc. But I doubt very much that the intended context of his comments were really misunderstood. In Washington, policicians never lie, they "misspeak;" a great "get out of jail free" ploy frequently used by those tripped up occasioually by their own eloquence. But Cohen's remarks smack of the typical moral equivalence ploy, advanced by Saul Alinsky and practiced to perfection by liberals: demonize your opponents; all the angels are on our side and the demons are all on the opposition's! Most Americans are rightly concerned about civility in our political discourse, and advocate moderation - and that's a good thing. Regrettably, as any American historian - professional or amateur - can tell you, moderation has seldom if ever been an American political trait.

Posted by: MadJack1 | January 20, 2011 3:52 PM | Report abuse

Other than the fact the he was absolutely correct, Cohen had no good reason to make this comparison.

Posted by: js_edit | January 20, 2011 3:43 PM | Report abuse

It's sad that we, who have never seen an actual Nazi in our lives, cannot be rational when references to their behavior are made. However unfortunate the reactions to Cohen's comments, the fact that those comments were factually accurate shoulld take precedence over distaste for the reference to Goebbels. In fact, the Big Lie technique, which the Republican party haw, in fact, adopted as its primary political tactic, was fully described and strongly recommended, in the pages of Mein Kampf itself.

Nancy shouldn't have leaned on Cohen so hard. The Big Lie technique is highly effective, and only made more effective when it is forbidden to openly give it its true name. Death panels, government takeover of health care, socialism, birthers, the Right's comparison of the administration with the Third Reich, all are examples of the Big Lie technique in action, and all have materially influenced our national political debate.

People who use this villainous tactic should be exposed wherever they are found, without fear or favor. That's not incivility, that's Justice.

Posted by: lonquest | January 20, 2011 3:13 PM | Report abuse

Cohen is not just a disgrace to Congress, he's a disgrace to his fellow Jews. All he's doing is digging himself deeper and deeper into a hole. He's too small a person to admit he was wrong and apologize.

Posted by: WashingtonDame | January 20, 2011 3:11 PM | Report abuse

Why was this article buried and not on the homepage?
This is the biggest outrage, coming after the shootings and the memorial.
Where is the media?

Posted by: llrllr | January 20, 2011 2:26 PM | Report abuse

God, I hope his insane rhetoric doesn't result in MORE nutty libs gunning people down like what happened in AZ.

Posted by: illogicbuster | January 20, 2011 1:51 PM | Report abuse

I just hope this heated rhetoric doesn't result in some anti-Nazi nut shooting Rep Grimm.

Posted by: jackmandr | January 20, 2011 1:18 PM | Report abuse

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