Goebbels in 21st century political rhetoric: three case studiesby George Bennett | December 21st, 2011
Lamenting polls that show the public blaming the GOP for congressional gridlock, West told reporters in Washington last week that Adolf Hitler‘s propaganda minister would be “very, very proud of the Democrat Party because they have an incredible propaganda machine.”
Democrats and Jewish groups have criticized West, who has refused to apologize. On Tuesday, the Republican-controlled House quashed a Democratic resolution condemning West for the remarks.
Among those who voted against tabling the resolution was U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn. In January, on the House floor, Cohen mentioned Goebbels during a lectern-thumping denunciation of Republican criticism of the federal health care bill.
“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, you repeat the lie and eventually people believe it, like blood libel — that’s the same kind of thing. The Germans said enough about the Jews and the people believed it and you had the Holocaust. You tell a lie over and over again, and we’ve heard it on this floor: ‘government takeover of health care.’ “
Cohen later issued a classic Washington apology, expressing regret at reaction to the “portrayal” of his comments and then defending them:
“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 it has been delivered.”
When he was running for governor of California in June 2010, Democrat Jerry Brown compared Republican rival Meg Whitman‘s big-spending campaign to Goebbels’ propaganda.
“She’ll have people believing whatever she wants about me,” Brown told radio reporter Doug Sovern. “It’s like Goebbels. … Goebbels invented this kind of propaganda. He took control of the whole world. She wants to be president. That’s her ambition, the first woman president. That’s what this is all about.”
A few days later, Brown said: “I’m sorry, I talked to the people at the Holocaust center and they completely understand.”
The Associated Press reported that Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, said Brown had called him to say he regretted using Goebbels’ name.
“He regrets any misapprehension that was created by his remarks,” Hier said. “He said he was jogging and he shouldn’t have used it. He certainly wasn’t saying Meg Whitman was Joseph Goebbels…He said that his remarks were taken out of context. He was complaining about, in his opinion, the constant blitz of attack ads that were coming from the other side.”
Brown defeated Whitman in the California governor’s race a few months later.