Democratic Rep. Steve Cohen Walks Back Holocaust Reference

House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, left, participates in a ceremonial House swearing-in ceremony for Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., on Capitol Hill in Washington Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2011. AP Photo/Alex Brandon

House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, left, participates in a ceremonial House swearing-in ceremony for Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., on Capitol Hill in Washington Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2011.
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
Democratic Rep. Steve Cohen is attempting to do some damage control after likening Republican rhetoric to Nazi propaganda.

In a statement released today, the congressman did not apologize for his remarks, which he made Tuesday night on the House floor while debating the Republicans' bill to repeal the Democratic health care reform package. However, Cohen did say that with his remarks "taken out of context, I can understand the confusion and concern." He added that it was "disappointing" his remarks distracted from the larger health care debate.

In the Tuesday night debate, the Tennessee Democrat compared the Republican attack on health care reform to the propagation of false rhetoric in Nazi Germany.

"They don't like the truth so they summarily dismiss it," said Cohen, who is Jewish. "They say it's a government takeover of health care, a big lie just like [Nazi propagandist Joseph] Goebbels. You say it enough, you repeat the lie, you repeat the lie, you repeat the lie, and eventually, people believe it."

"The Germans said enough about the Jews and the people believed it and you had the Holocaust," he continued. "You tell a lie over and over again. And we've heard it on this floor: Government takeover of health care."

In his statement today, Cohen suggested his remarks were blown out of proportion.

"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," he said. "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."

Cohen cited the fact-checking website Politifact.com's declaration that the Republican warning against a "government takeover" of health care amounted to be the "lie of the year" last year.

The congressman also said he regrets if anyone in the Jewish community was offended by his remarks. He pointed out that he helped create one of the first state Holocaust Commissions in America and actively served as a Commission member for over 20 years.

"I would certainly never do anything to diminish the horror of the Nazi Holocaust as I revere and respect the history of my people," Cohen said. "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."

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