On October 7, the Jewish people suffered their greatest single-day loss of life since the Holocaust in a horrific massacre that should cause people to think twice before comparing someone or something to Hitler, the Nazis, or their crimes. Unfortunately, the news media only seem to apply that standard to one side.
Based on Godwin's Law -- which states the longer an internet conversation goes on, the likelihood that someone or something will be compared to Adolf Hitler or the Nazi Party approaches one -- NewsBusters analysts looked at all news programming on ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS, CNN, and MSNBC from October 26, 2022 through October 26, 2023, to compare how the media treats Nazi analogies on the right and left. (October 26 is Mike Godwin's birthday.)
On April 11, 2023, MSNBC Morning Joe co-host Joe Scarborough lamented that “I had a conversation with a friend who is a Trump supporter after Uvalde and we're sitting around there talking, and he brings up guns and says, ‘You know, Democrats are just trying to take away our Second Amendment rights’ and I talked about Uvalde and I said, ‘Well, look what happened in Uvalde.’ He goes, ‘Yup, you know what, you're sounding like Hitler, you're sound like Stalin, you're sound like Pol Pot.’" Scarborough was dismayed that his friend would compare him to Hitler,
Perhaps he should look in the mirror. Joe Scarborough is tied for the media personality who is mostly likely to invoke a Nazi analogy. If Scarborough is the king of Nazi analogies on television, his queen is frequent MSNBC guest Ruth Ben-Ghiat, the New York University professor billed as an expert on authoritarianism,
Of their combined 20 analogies, 18 were either about Donald Trump or the Republican Party in the general sense. One particularly ironic exception was Scarborough on May 8 lamenting a lack of gun control by comparing it to a challenge the U.S. has to overcome, like the Nazis. The other involved Scarborough going after Sen. Josh Hawley and Steve Bannon talking about disaffected males in his I'm-not-saying-I'm-just-saying way of speaking.
MSNBC presidential historian Michael Beschloss was a close third with nine Nazi analogies, all about Trump or Republicans. For a summary of the media’s shameful behavior, see this video from NewsBusters media editor Bill D’Agostino:
In total, there were 192 Nazi analogies made by media personalities, guests, or political figures that were reported on. Of these, 88 were attacks from the right, of which 80 (90.9 percent) were condemned during the segment. Of the uncondemned eight, three were recollections of how current Sen. J.D. Vance used to compare Trump to Hitler and another was Trump suggesting Hitler would support 2024 rival Gov. Ron DeSantis.
By contrast, 104 were attacks from the left and only 29 (27.9 percent) of which were condemned during the segment. However, when one removes reports on statements made by Democratic-turned-independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. on COVID-era mandates and vaccines, only 4 of 79 (5 percent) left-wing attacks were condemned.
When Trump, the Trump Campaign, the Trump White House, or his lawyers were being attacked, only one of 46 (2.2 percent) were condemned. The one exception was a PBS Frontline documentary on Elon Musk and Twitter bias. Similarly, when Republicans were being condemned, only two of 18 (11.1 percent) received condemnation. Former Vermont Gov. Howard went too far for MSNBC’s Ari Melber on August 25 and CNN’s Erin Burnett questioned Rep. Ro Khanna on October 2 about Rep. Jamaal Bowman calling Republicans Nazis after his fire alarm-pulling episode.
However, when Trump World was the one on the attack, 38 of 41 (92.7 percent) were condemned. When Republicans were the offensive, seven of seven were condemned.
Of the six networks, MSNBC was the worst. There were 72 left-wing attacks on that network, only seven were condemned (9.7 percent), but remove RFK and it drips to two of 66 (3 percent). Right-wing attacks were condemned 48 of 52 times (92.3 percent).
CNN was more obsessed with RFK. They totaled 27 left-wing attacks, condemning 19 (70.3 percent), but without RFK it was one of eight (12.5 percent). For the right, condemnation was in order for 25 of 28 (89.3 percent) comparisons. The network also had one of the more unintentionally humorous examples when PBS documentarian Ken Burns declared DeSantis's education policies feel "like a Soviet system or the way the Nazis would build a Potemkin Village." Grigory Potemkin was a Russian general and Catherine the Great's lover.
CBS featured six attacks from the right, five of which (83.3 percent) were condemned. The network featured no left-wing attacks. Gayle King allowed Trump lawyer Joe Tacopina to say his piece about how Alvin Bragg is acting like Nazi Germany on March 31.
PBS featured five attacks from the left, one of which was condemned (20 percent) and two from the right, both of which were.
ABC and NBC featured no attacks from either side.
Notes and Methodology: NewsBusters analysts examined all news program on ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS, CNN, and MSNBC from October 26, 2022-October 26, 2023.
Terms analyzed were “Nazi,” “Nazism,” “Hitler,” “Gestapo,” and “Holocaust.” Only American politicians and controversies were examined and the conversation had to be about domestic politics, meaning no foreign policy analogies based on the 1938 Munich Agreement and the policy of appeasement. References to the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union being used as humorous way of saying something was a miserable failure were also not included.
Left and right were based on what was being attacked not necessarily who was doing the attacking. Instances of right-on-right or left-on-left criticism was based on the issue and the attacker's current relationship with their party. Robert F. Kennedy's history of anti-vaccine activism predates COVID, so his attacks were still considered to be from the left despite the media typically associating the issue with the right.
Because some people and things can reasonably be compared to Hitler or Nazi Germany, conversations about actual Nazis, neo-Nazis, racists, anti-Semites, and Hamas sympathizers were also not included.