There is growing alarm among Jewish groups and anti-defamation activists over the increased use of Nazi analogies in the political arena after two more instances of the controversial comparison were offered on Tuesday.
During his October 13 radio broadcast, conservative media personality Glenn Beck on his host network, Fox News, likened the Obama White House's pushback to Nazi persecution of Jews leading up to the Holocaust.
Several hours later, the National Republican Congressional Committee put up a tweet that linked to a video aligning House Speaker Nancy Pelosi with Adolf Hitler.
In both instances, the offending parties insisted that their antics were meant in jest. After taking down the tweet, the NRCC said that it thought the video "was funny" when they first saw it before realizing "it was in poor taste and pulled it down..."
All of which has only infuriated and concerned the offended groups even more.
"He thought it was cute and funny to compare Nancy Pelosi to Adolf Hitler?" said David Harris, president of National Jewish Democratic Council. "It just shows they don't get it... in their effort to issue a mea culpa that is not very deep, they just dig the hole even deeper."
Harris isn't alone in being alarmed by the blase use of Nazi analogies in the political arena. Officials at the Anti-Defamation League say that in their history of tracking such occurrences they have never before encountered a more depressing environment than the current one.
"I'm concerned that we are seeing more of it than usual," said Deborah Lauter, civil rights director for the ADL. "We have seen it over the years by various individuals and organizations. But in terms of concentration, particular around the health care debate, It has been a particularly active season, which is distressing."
According to Harris, there have been roughly 50 instances in the past few months where either a media personality or politician manufactured a Nazi analogy or Holocaust reference to push a point.
The list includes some Democrats, notably Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) who apologized to the ADL for describing the health care situation as a "holocaust in America." And, below the surface, it has been exacerbated by followers of Lyndon LaRouche, who routinely pass out pamphlets comparing President Obama to Hitler.
But the vast majority of instances, as a review of recent of recent news clips shows, have been offered by Republican or conservative figures targeting the president or Democrats.
Take, for instance, former Saturday Night Live cast member Victoria Jackson, who warned that Obama - like Hitler - "killed the weak, the sick, the old, and babies and races/religions he didn't like. Hitler also controlled the media."
Then there is radio host Rush Limbaugh, who insisted that, "Adolf Hitler, like Barack Obama, also ruled by dictate," and RedState.com's Erick Erickson, who insisted that the president's health care adviser, Linda Douglass, "really is the Joseph Goebbels of the White House Health Care shop."
For groups like ADL and NJDC, however, the offense doesn't always come when a group or individual makes the direct Nazi comparison but rather when groups or individuals don't speak out against someone else making it. Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), for instance, did not push back against a town hall questioner who said that Obama like Hitler believed in a "superior race" (in the president's case: Congress). Few representatives, moreover, have spoken out against the proliferation of swastikas at health care town halls or tea party protests.
"We have heard nothing from leading Republicans," said Harris. "We hear nothing from the Republican Jewish Coalition. We hear nothing from candidates. We hear nothing from Eric Cantor" - the lone Jewish Republican in the House of Representatives. [UPDATED WITH REACTION BELOW]
Lauter added that the ADL was reaching out to those who are making the Nazi analogies. But there remains a concern that politicians and media personalities have grown desensitized to the significance of such lines of attack.
"Part of the concern," she said, "is that as we get further away [from the Holocaust] we are faced with the challenge of how you impart the lessons to a new generation."
"Using a Nazi analogy just to say that your adversaries position on health care is bad... demeans the experience of those who died and those who are still around. It is so offensive on so many levels."
UPDATE: A Republican source sends over this August 2009 article in The Hill which pretty firmly disputes Harris' notion that elected GOP officials have been silent on the Nazi analogies.
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Wash.), a member of the House Republican leadership, offered criticism Thursday to those comparing Democratic leaders to Nazis in the healthcare debate.
"I think the purpose of the town halls is for people to be able to express their views in an orderly and respectful manner, and that needs to take place on both sides," said McMorris Rodgers, the fifth-ranking Republican in the House.
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