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January 19th, 2011
04:30 PM ET

House Democrat compares Republican 'lies' to Nazi propagandist

Dana Bash
CNN Senior Congressional Correspondent

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.

Full story on the CNN Political Ticker


Filed under: 360° Radar • Dana Bash
soundoff (38 Responses)
  1. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    The Jewish people better than anyone else in the World know exactly where this political system is headed and they must be heard and not criticized, they should not be silenced.

    January 20, 2011 at 12:19 pm |
  2. Liz Homer

    Rep. Cohen said that setting up a simply stated lie and repeating it over and over can successfully persuade the public that it is true. He said this was a propaganda tactic used by the Nazis, which should drive home how dangerous the use of this tactic can be. You could not get that this is not the same as calling someone a Nazi. YOu completely missed the point, that he was warning us of the dire nature of allowing political people to lie, lie, and repeat lies. You mischarachterized what Rep. Cohen said and meant. You were not listening.

    January 20, 2011 at 10:07 am |
  3. Jeanie

    I rather enjoyed the exchange by you and Rep. Cohen and was glad to see that he was not swayed from making his point. He is an honest person that calls it like it is and will not be hardballed to back off and change the message. I am so glad that someone has the balls to tell the truth about what is going on. One would have to be an idiot not to see how people are being manipulated. Cohen is the one "keeping it real".

    January 20, 2011 at 3:31 am |
  4. jerome

    Mr Cohen compares " lies" to nazi propaganda... so? it's true!!! The GOP has been doing that tactic for years and nobody ( democrats,independent) said anything..As a "senior" correspondent i would have assume you would balance a little bit more your article by analizing the undelying message or you were too afraid of being politicaly incorrect? if that so the GOP has won.Mr Goebbels being a nazi was an unfortunate coincidence but everybody knows him!! Mr Cohen could have use instead the name Edward Berney but most Americains have no clue who he is and that's an irony because he IS the father of propaganda and a big influence on Goebbels and he's Americain too by the way.
    The main focus should be that propagenda studies should be mendatory to schools for the next generation to be able to sort through the lies of any political parties because if they don't history will repeat itself , since no ones cares about the past or too afraid to confront it like changing the word " negro " to "slave" in Mark Twain's classic.

    January 20, 2011 at 3:30 am |
  5. Jeanie

    The point he is trying to make by referencing "Nazi" propaganda technique is to show the gravity of using such tactics. Telling lies over and over again to the less educated, poor readers and those already harboring racial biases they began to accept it as truth without questioning the source or facts. You cloud the point he is making by questioning his comparison, another tactic...discredit the messenger to diminish the message. Most have not said anything because they know what he is saying is true.

    January 20, 2011 at 2:45 am |
  6. MzSally

    Be careful, Mr. Cooper. In trying to enforce civil dialog, we should not criminalize learning lessons from history. If this rule of 'thou shalt never make references to tactics used by the Nazis' becomes law, how will we ever learn from history so that we don't repeat it? The Jews say "Never Forget" for a reason. References to tactics used by the Nazis is not, in and of itself, incendiary. I hope you can learn the difference between this man's statements and those who simply label their opponents as Nazis.

    January 20, 2011 at 2:35 am |
  7. Kalvin

    Mr. Cooper,thanks for all you do. The Nazi label is offensive to many Americans because of its history. It has been used by both parties. However, the party participants who use the most Nazi like inflammatory language, project the most of these inflammatory acquisitions, as well as demonstrate behavior characteristic to the Nazi ideology, should own up to the label. Unfortunately, many Americans who support such ideology may not know the devastation it can produce in America; as I can imagine many of the Germans did not realize the devastation it would and did actually did result in Germany. I only hope Americans wake up before it's too late.

    Kalvin

    January 20, 2011 at 2:05 am |
  8. Anthony

    I know you have to be fair to "both" sides, but you inserting " comparing Nazi ", instead of Goebbels( is what Cohen said), was wrong of you and Dana. Have you ever read Joesph Goebbels' principles of propaganda? I think you can make this a teachable moment. Bring in a Nazi historian and ask if what Congressman Cohen said right or wrong. I think that's better than you deciding what outragous, in your attempt to be fair.

    January 20, 2011 at 1:33 am |
  9. Michael Bruck

    Anderson...I think you are missing the point. He was simply saying that is that the way the Republicans promote lies the same way Goebbels did. No where did he say that any Republican is a Nazi. The point is, if you continue to tell a lie, people will believe it. That is how Goebbels spread lies and that is how he was saying the Republicans are spreading lies.
    You should be focusing on the lies that the health care bill is government takeover...this is the "Keeping Them Honest" segment!

    January 20, 2011 at 1:30 am |
  10. Robert Watson

    2 years of Republican/Tea party personal attacks, threats of violence, vandalism, lies, distortions and the hypocritical self serving groups that played the biggest con on the American people. Lies repeated become truths. Rep. Cohen is "right" on.

    January 20, 2011 at 1:29 am |
  11. Gretchen

    I completely agree with Cohen's argument. It makes perfect sense. It's not a bi-partisan issue. He was comparing political tactics and said that's all he was doing over and over again. What is so difficult to understand? All you're doing by calling attention to it Anderson.. is fueling the fire by not letting him explain himself further. Repeating the same question over and over and over again was pointless and just made you look like a power-tripping news reporter. That was an incredibly frustrating interview to watch.

    We need to start having an INTELLIGENT debate. Take emotion out of it. Intelligent people DO NOT IGNORE HISTORY. He was making a logical comparison. Cohen's argument is totally founded and we should not attack someone who is trying to call attention to something that is ripping our country apart. It's a HUMAN issue.

    January 20, 2011 at 1:21 am |
  12. J.V.Hodgson

    For me the only thing this guy did wrong was invoking Goebbels ( understandable as he is Jewish) but still not civil discourse.
    He need not have invoked Goebbels, (uncivil rhetoric.)
    What he had to say about Republicans many of them lying about health care on the specific points in his speech were absolutely correct as per an independent fact checking organisation.
    Government takeover of health care etc.
    Now,the sad part is he was in a virtually empty chamber and after debate had ended!! My question to CNN and AC is had he not invoked Goebbels, woulkd his speech have gotten any coverage? Answer No! Is he smart or are you gullible in airing what no reasonable and sensible journalist or voter thinks important except whether Republicans are lying as he suggests. You had no interest in the lie aspect only his lack of civility.
    I think they are lying, but they and you keep putting out stories that are lies... please explain why lies are news.
    Freedom of speech may allow an individual to lie(if thier conscience permits) journalistic integrity however demands you call out any liar of any party, and not perpetuate the lie.
    Regards,
    Hodgson.

    January 20, 2011 at 1:12 am |
  13. Chris

    D-Steve Cohen should not have used the Nazi comparison in referring to Republicans. However, his assessment of Republicans and Tea Party members was right on the mark. Both parties use scare tactics and half-truths in order to win votes–with little or no regard for the people.

    January 20, 2011 at 12:29 am |
  14. Benjamin Allotey Sr.

    This is in support of Rep. Cohen's remarks about the tactics being employed by the Republicans to undo the new Health-Care law ushered in by this President.

    I think it is constructive, and that is the only base on which it should be judged. Employing tactic of repeated falsehoods to scare people from suporting the law is unkind and it should be pointed out. There is no other way. It is constructive criticism that applies well here.

    Let's make sure not to take clean constructive criticism as extream to shut out or prevent our Representatives from expossing others with obstructionist agenders from employing scarry tatics designed to scare the public from supporting this new Healthcare law that has more benefits for all than the previous, with known lies. His comment is not incindiary at all and anyone that takes it that way, needs this Health-Care law more. Yes it may need some twicks here and there, why not? Lets not use scarry tactics to undo everything. Thanks.

    January 20, 2011 at 12:19 am |
  15. Chris

    Regarding the statements made by the Democrat, Steve Cohen, his assessment was right on the mark! However, had he not used the Nazi comparison,(I wish he had not) Anderson Cooper and other reporters would now be focusing on the meat of his statement, instead of on the potatoes, as they are doing now. Anyone who is privy to the Republican "way" knows unequivocally that the Republicans and Tea Party members often use extreme scare tactics, devoid of facts, in order to sway votes.

    January 20, 2011 at 12:12 am |
  16. Mike

    Congressman Cohen did not compare Republicans to nazis. What he said was that Republicans had used the same technique with regards to propaganda...and mastered it "like goebbels"(and he's right). It's unfortunate that the point he was trying to make was not even discussed seriously. I'm glad he stood by his point. He made it very clear that he did not think that his collegues "on the other side of the isle" were not nazis. I believe that he brought up those horrible people to draw attention to the issue(air time). Again, he defined what he said and defended it clearly. Something not always done by our elected officials.

    January 20, 2011 at 12:05 am |
  17. Chris

    Regarding the statements made by the Democrat, Steve Cohen, his assessment was right on the mark! However, had it not used the Nazi comparison, Anderson Cooper and other reporters would now be focusing on the meat of his statemet, instead of on the potatoes, as they are doing now. Anyone who is privy to the Republican "way" knows unequivocally that the Republicans/Tea Party members thrive on making up little lies and on allowing those little lies to snowball into big lies in order to scare people or to get votes.
    Republicans will do anything, and I mean anything, to try to defeat the Democrats, especially President Obama. The goal of The Tea Party and that of the Republicans is to take America back to 1864...to the "good ole American way."

    January 20, 2011 at 12:00 am |
  18. Rob

    I use to think that you gave a good effort to tell the truth when you reported on stories. I watched the interview with Representative Cohen and you were fishing and trying to get him to slip up. You were wrong! He did not compare the two parties he talked of the current using a tactic perfected by the other. When the man spoke the truth about the t- party you seemed to become flustered because he would not agree with you. They are racist. You would not admit to knowing about that because you can only see it from the white American side. If you need me to explain it to you I will. You can contact me at anytime. The man spoke the truth and you want to crush him for it. Who is paying your bonuses on this one?

    January 19, 2011 at 11:47 pm |
  19. Merry

    Civility requires that we practice respect and self-control to achieve the greater good. No matter how he tries to justify his remarks, Cohen's analogy and references clearly appear "Nazo" innocent.

    January 19, 2011 at 11:42 pm |
  20. Maryanne

    The only thing wrong with Rep. Cohen's comment is his timing.

    January 19, 2011 at 11:30 pm |
  21. KARL

    Anderson,
    You should be more concerned about the substance of the speech not an political unwise comment.
    For instance:
    Sarah Palin did not contribute to the Tuscon shooting by talking about "reloading"
    and Mr Cohan did not call anybody a Nazi... he did not. He simply said that the tactics were used by Goebbels as well..
    Stop being the speech-police

    Karl

    January 19, 2011 at 11:24 pm |
  22. shola

    Hey anderson,the congressman did not compare the republicans to the nazis he used the TACTICS they used as an example.i think your attempt to make him admit that he was comparing the nazis to the republican was a little harsh.But he certainly could have used other less offensive example but who knows the less offensive example could still offend some people hopefully not a alot. dammed if you do and dammed if you still DO.

    January 19, 2011 at 11:24 pm |
  23. Bob Oliver

    OMG, God forbid a Demacrate make such a remark when the Republicans and Tea Partiers have been making these same remarks. It doesn't matter how we conduct ourselves, whether it's being civil toward each other or tuning down the rhetoric because of what happened in Tucson, it's too late, the damage is done and these weak minded lunatics that allowed themselves to be brainwashed with such dangerous rhetoric from the right are not going to stop killing, because in there mind, it's the only way they'll be heard.

    January 19, 2011 at 11:23 pm |
  24. lamont

    What cohen said is what is being said in a majority of the black community. When the statements were made "take our country back" it was code for lets get the black man out of office.we want things the way it used to be. "White power" Anderson you knew exactly what it meant so don't act like you don't understand what the congressman was saying hooray for mr cohen for not being afraid to call it like it is

    January 19, 2011 at 11:20 pm |
  25. Donna

    I am disappointed with you, Anderson. You continued to claim that (the Rep from TN), Cohen – "called the Republicans Nazi's."

    Rep Cohen Did Not call anyone a Nazi.
    Rep Cohen said that the Tactics that the Republicans have used (example: health care) are the Same as those used by those in the Nazi Party.

    You are intelligent – and I expect better reporting than this. Certainly, Cohen could have spoken with more tact.

    Anderson, you did absolutely nothing to help Clarify what was said – which only Worsens the situation.

    (Some words with Cap for Emphasis.)
    Thanks,
    Donna

    January 19, 2011 at 11:19 pm |
  26. Mike Myers

    Anderson – I completely get it that you don't understand what Rep. Cohen is saying about Republicans. I've been watching the Republicans through Native American eyes and they have certainly cleaned up all of their racist and bigotted messages with a whole new set of code words and buzz phrases. Obviously, you don't hear the same thing many of us who are of color hear and especially with the rise of the Tea Party and Palin. We're scared if these people get into power.

    January 19, 2011 at 11:18 pm |
  27. Harris Monosoff

    Anderson,
    I believe you've missed the point that Representative Cohen was making about lies whose intent is to destroy or character assassinate. The connection between the lies that Republicans are making is indeed similar to that of the Nazi's. Please read Sissela Bok's Book Lying: Moral Choice in Public and Private lives. She points out, as did Cohen, that lies are lies. When told often and forcefully enough there is a moral breakdown that all too frequently becomes irreversible. I do not know of many Jews who have fled their country due to lies who would not think, as Cohen did, that persistent lies and people's gullibility for them can lead to the road of totalitarianism. Please lose your incredulity and see it from his frame of reference and not your own.
    I found your inability to bring out more of his ache rather than just attempting to discredit him was unbecoming of you. And this is said from a man who respects you deeply.

    January 19, 2011 at 11:17 pm |
  28. Emily

    I am having a difficult time understanding why Anderson became so upset with what Rep. Cohen said about lies and Joseph Goebbels. He was not calling anyone a Nazi, he was referring to the greatest propagandist (who happened to be a Nazi). The same is true with mob mentality (KKK is a prime example)and what a group of angry people can do. Again, he was not saying that members of the Tea Party were like the KKK and would lynch people, he was using the behavior as an example of how people can lose perspective and become a mob (remember the Watts riot); not all blacks burn building, beat up white people and steal from stores.
    Geez, I am so disappointed that this went right to the negative and not to the message. CNN and Anderson Cooper are the BEST at reporting fairly, the reaction was not at all warranted. Respectfuly, One of your biggest fans!

    January 19, 2011 at 10:58 pm |
  29. jack

    Anderson, I'm disappointed with your presentation of this story. It seems you're primarily interested in stirring up controversy. First, Cohen did not compare republicans to nazis. He compared a republican tactic to a tactic use by a Nazi propagandist. I think it's immature that you focus on the analogy as the "news story", rather tham focusing on the point that republicans repeatedly use the political tactic of deliberate repetition of lies to steer public reaction. These are not "white lies" subject to opinion. These are easily verifiable lies that you and your news station choose to ignore. Money involved perhaps?

    January 19, 2011 at 10:52 pm |
  30. Pat

    Anderson,
    You almost always get it right, but I'm not convinced that the Nazi comparison is entirely inaccurate. Sure, we'd all like to hear less threatening language in politics, but who else in history but Goebbels can adequately illustrate the systemic propaganda program of the Republicans? The attack on health care is just a small part of the Roger Ailes Republican News Network (Fox). Even the very intelligent can be fooled when those they trust relay information percieved as "news."

    January 19, 2011 at 10:32 pm |
  31. lisa williams

    Atleast Cohen opens his mouth and tells his perception and is not tip toeing around the fact that the Tea Party is a party that feels out of control and they shared rhetoric against the president saying he is a nazi no respect for the president of the u.s. Obamacare
    is not a form of socialism and I say tell the truth Mr Cohen you are saying what others feel about the Republican Party and its association with the tea party. And I believe Anderson knows you are telling the truth.

    January 19, 2011 at 10:23 pm |
  32. Annie Kate

    The big lie is a very old political/propaganda tactic used by many countries and many people – take a simple idea, tell a lie about it, and repeat it and eventually people will only believe that because they have heard it so many times and have heard nothing as effective to refute it. We should point out lies over political issues but keep incendiary language/names out of it or we will wind up not dispelling the lie but arguing over the semantics used in exposing the lie.

    January 19, 2011 at 10:21 pm |
  33. Jacob

    He can say whatever he wants, anyone can say whatever they want. Yes, there are some things you should and shouldn't say, but now-a-days everyone is TOO proper! I mean should you care on what anyone says? No! What matters is getting your job done and doing it right, not what other people say.

    January 19, 2011 at 10:20 pm |
  34. Robyn

    Thank you for standing up for what is right Cohen was wrong. I am a republican and even my party has said some immature things. We need to set an example to our children of how adults handle politics. We need to be mature.

    January 19, 2011 at 10:20 pm |
  35. Robert Fischer

    Cooper's emotional hectoring of Representative Cohen was pretty stupid.

    When a political faction uses a "Big Lie" (as has been the Republican tactic on Health Care Reform) ... of course the term is related to a Nazi tactic. That is the origin of the term and that is a principal example of how it works.

    Perhaps Cooper has another less infamatory example? What would that be?

    Cooper comes out LAME here.

    January 19, 2011 at 10:20 pm |
  36. marlyn smith

    anderson, please, let us listen to what people say rather than how they say it, love you, but you medna guys never let anything go...that is why media folks "anger people". ps love your show, but [please tone down some. you would be much more credible

    January 19, 2011 at 10:19 pm |
  37. Kevin Lenagh

    Sen. Cohen did not use the word Nazi. He was commenting on the TACTICS that Goebels used (Not the party). George Orwell made the same statements
    in 1984. The Republicans actually have been repeating mistruths over and over again to reinforce ideas to the populace. Unfortunately, it works on the masses and the mass media.

    January 19, 2011 at 10:13 pm |
  38. Kristin

    CNN Needs to quit being a station that is targeting Republicans and Tea Party Members. ENOUGH! When you do YOUR job then you will be a station that maintains integrity. Today's CNN is a poor example of democracy in a country that is supposed to be one. It is sad that the recent shootings have brought you to BOYCOTT the term "CROSSHAIRS" with an apology. Does that mean CROSSFIRE program is out too?

    I mean let's get real and have a TRUE conversation. American people involved in the tea party are disgusted with this president and tired of the bias in the media ( This means YOU). Do the RESEARCH you would learn what it is you need to stay on top of REAL news.

    January 19, 2011 at 9:23 pm |