MSNBC: Rep. Cohen Compares Mike Pence to Goebbels, No Challenge From Ed Schultz

On MSNBC's Ed Show on Thursday, despite initially regretting his comparison of Republicans to Nazis, Democratic Congressman Steve Cohen later doubled down: "[Indiana Congressman] Mike Pence talked about government takeover of health care....he wants to be concise, careful, and consistent. Well, that's somebody...who lived in a previous century who worked for bad people, that's what he did." [Audio available here]

Host Ed Schultz offered no challenge to that statement as he wrapped up the segment, simply replying, "sure." In the question that preceded Cohen's attack on Pence, Schultz even tried to defend the Tennessee Congressman's Tuesday outburst on the House floor in which he claimed Republicans were using Nazi propaganda tactics in their opposition to ObamaCare: "I think a lot of liberals in this country admire you for calling them [Republicans] liars because the numbers are what they are....you're talking about a messaging machine that they definitely have followed to get their point across about health care, which you think is having an effect."

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The interview actually started out seeming to be an opportunity for Cohen to apologize for his Tuesday comments, with Schultz asking: "Congressman, did you go too far there?" Cohen seemed hesitantly remorseful: "Well, apparently so because a lot of people, I guess, hold a strict liability rule on mentioning the Holocaust or anything....I've learned that lesson, I guess." However, he quickly added: "But everything I said was true and I think people agree that it was true. That there's been a message. It's been given over and over and over and it's a lie."

Shultz followed up: "But do you feel like you, you know, brought us to a point where there should not have been a comparison, because the Holocaust was so horrific, as opposed to a repeal on health care?...Are you sorry for making the connection?" Cohen was more affirmative in an apology: "I definitely am. And I'm sorry any Jewish people, my Republican colleagues, or anybody, got the wrong impression....I hate if I participated in anything that made my congress, which I'm greatly honored to be a member of, or my district, which I love, have any problems."

To be completely clear, Schultz then asked Cohen: "Would you say that you would not use that term again?" Cohen replied: "Never." Schultz noted: "Because, you know, the Tea Party has been criticized for carrying Nazi signs at rallies...now a Democratic Congressman goes out and you say you're sorry for that tonight. But if we're talking about tone in America, this can't be tolerated, can it?" Cohen agreed: "No. I'm not going to do it again. I've my learned my lesson."

However, only seconds later, Shultz was justifying the Nazi comparison and Cohen was comparing Pence to Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels.


Here is a full transcript of the January 20 segment:

6:17PM ET

ED SCHULTZ: Welcome back to 'The Ed Show' and thanks for watching tonight. I have said repeatedly that if we want to change the tone in this country, I think it has to start with the lawmakers in Washington. Well today, Democratic lawmakers are in the spotlight, one in particular, because he brought up the Nazis while making an argument against health care repeal. Here's Congressman Steve Cohen on the House floor Tuesday night.

STEVE COHEN [REP. D-TN]: Politifact, non-partisan, Pulitzer Prize winning, 2009 St. Petersburg Times said the biggest lie of 2010 was the government takeover of health care. Because there is no government takeover. It's insurance. We heard in August of 2009, that there were death panels and killing grandmother. Everybody agrees now that was a big lie. Just like government takeover of health care is a big lie.

The nonpartisan, bipartisan Congressional Budget Office says it's going to cost us $230 billion the first decade. And $1.2 trillion thereafter. And they say, 'Well, they can have their opinion.' Those are facts. Those are nonpartisan facts of people we hire to give us the truth. And they don't like the truth so they summarily dismiss it. 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. 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.

SCHULTZ: Congressman Cohen joins us tonight, here on the Ed Show. Congressman, did you go too far there?

COHEN: Well, apparently so because a lot of people, I guess, hold a strict liability rule on mentioning the Holocaust or anything. I'm Jewish and I passed a Holocaust commission in my state and worked on it 20 years. So, I've learned that lesson, I guess. But everything I said was true and I think people agree that it was true. That there's been a message. It's been given over and over and over and it's a lie. And I regret that it's taken away from the health care issue which  I'm so passionate about that I participated in the special order, which is what I was doing late at night. I could have been out at a party or whatever, but I did the special order because I wanted to get the people who watch C-SPAN the information that you gave them on the little clip that you showed.

SCHULTZ: Well, I think you were very clear in your House floor message about exactly what they have been saying about health care and the government takeover. The CBO numbers and all that kind of stuff. But do you feel like you, you know, brought us to a point where there should not have been a comparison, because the Holocaust was so horrific, as opposed to a repeal on health care?

COHEN: No question. That's true. And that's something I didn't see and I guess, to some extent, I don't see still, I have to admit it, because what I was talking about was the message and the process of delivering the message, which I see antiseptically different from-

SCHULTZ: Are you sorry for making the connection?

COHEN: I definitely am. And I'm sorry any Jewish people, my Republican colleagues, or anybody, got the wrong impression. And Gabby Giffords and I were close, she was a member of my class, and I do think that the rhetoric should be toned down. And I hate if I participated in anything that made my congress, which I'm greatly honored to be a member of, or my district, which I love, have any problems.

SCHULTZ: Would you say that you would not use that term again?

COHEN: Never.

SCHULTZ: Because, you know, the Tea Party has been criticized for carrying Nazi signs at rallies and such stuff as that and the comparison of Hitler to the President, there's been plenty of criticism on that. And now a Democratic Congressman goes out and you say you're sorry for that tonight. But if we're talking about tone in America, this can't be tolerated, can it?

COHEN: No. I'm not going to do it again. I've my learned my lesson. And I do – when I was among the Tea Party people when they were protesting the health care, I walked among them for about 20 minutes and I saw those signs with President Obama looking as Hitler, et cetera. And it was disgusting. And, you know, it was a mistake. But, you know, when you do special orders, I never prepare and maybe that's a mistake. When I do my one minutes – I do my whatever, I speak from the hip.

SCHULTZ: Sure.

COHEN: And I guess I just went further – I obviously went further than I should have. And I've apologized to the American Anti-Defamation League, the Jewish Defense, you name it. But I'm pleased to the message –  the message I said was true that they've been lying and they've been doing it over and over and over again and that's been their game. And I don't think we have had a good message on our side to respond to it.

SCHULTZ: And I think a lot of liberals in this country admire you for calling them liars because the numbers are what they are. And this is hurting a lot of people if it were to ever go to a repeal, 32 million people. Plus the CBO conversation that we're having in this country. But you're talking about a messaging machine that they definitely have followed to get their point across about health care, which you think is having an effect.

COHEN: I think it started with Karl Rove and I think it started with weapons of mass destruction and then it went to government takeover of health care. And yesterday on the floor, Mike Pence talked about government takeover of health care and other people did. And Michele Bachmann was talking about socialist. And those are all – those are the buzz words that are false and shouldn't be used, but they continue using them. And I think Mike Pence said he's often – he wants to be concise, careful, and consistent. Well, that's somebody, who I will never mention again, who lived in a previous century who worked for bad people, that's what he did.

SCHULTZ: Sure. Congressman Cohen, I appreciate your time tonight. Thank you so much.

COHEN: Thank you, Ed.      

— Kyle Drennen is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC