Democratic Rep. Steve Cohen apologized for remarks that linked Republican attacks on President Obama’s health care law to Nazi propaganda, saying he didn’t intend to offend anyone.
“I want to be clear that I never called Republicans Nazis,” said the Tennessee lawmaker in a statement issued Thursday. “I regret that anyone in the Jewish community, my Republican colleagues or anyone else was offended by the portrayal of my comments.”
Mr. Cohen, while debating a GOP measure to repeal the health care law, said Republicans are repeating lies and spreading false information “just like” Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels did about Jews before and during the Holocaust.
“You say it enough, you repeat the lie, you repeat the lie, you repeat the lie, and eventually, people believe it,” said Mr. Cohen on the House floor Tuesday. “The Germans said enough about the Jews and the people believed it, and you had the Holocaust.”
Jewish groups and others rebuked Mr. Cohen, who is Jewish.
“No matter how strong one’s objections to any policy or to the tactics of political opponents, invoking the Holocaust and the Nazi effort to exterminate the Jewish people is offensive and has no place in a civil political discourse,” said Abraham H. Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League.
The bipartisan group No Labels chastised Mr. Cohen for using a “toxic analogy.”
“Using an inflammatory Nazi analogy on the House floor to characterize the policy statements of your opponents does nothing to advance the health care debate and does plenty to widen the political divide we must bridge,” said the group in a statement issued Thursday.
Mr. Cohen said it was “disappointing” his comments have been used to distract from the health care reform debate.
“It is my hope that we can return our focus to the matter at hand — health care for 32 million Americans,” he said.