Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke on Thursday compared some of the rhetoric coming from the Trump administration to that of Nazi Germany, CNN is reporting.
The El Paso businessman was in Iowa Thursday night when a reporter asked him how he would respond to attacks from Republicans. O’Rourke responded by pointing to a list of things the Trump administration has attempted to enact since Trump’s inauguration, including the so-called Muslim ban, separating immigrant children from their parents and housing them in separate detention facilities, calling Mexican immigrants an “infestation,” and indirectly referring to white supremacist groups in Charlottesville as “very fine people.”
He went on to say that he would expect to hear that sort of thing from Nazi Germany, not the president of the United States.
“Now, I might expect someone to describe another human being as an infestation in the Third Reich. I would not expect that in the United States of America.”
Later on Thursday, he was asked by a reporter to clarify his remarks. He didn’t back down.
“I compared the rhetoric that the president has employed to rhetoric that you might’ve heard during the Third Reich. Calling human beings an ‘infestation’ is something that we might have expected to hear in Nazi Germany.”
O’Rourke is not the first person to point out the supposed similarities between Trump, his administration, and Nazi Germany. As The Conversation reports, it’s a claim that’s been made by politicians, pundits, professors, historians, and others.
Supposed similarities include demonizing minority groups (the Nazis were known to describe Jews and other “undesirables” as “vermin,” a word choice echoed in calling immigrants an “infestation”); portraying the free press as the enemy (the Nazis used the word Lügenpresse, or “lying press,” whereas Trump is fond of the term “fake news”); and threats to retaliate against or imprison political adversaries.
Such comparisons, however, at once diminish the horrors of Nazi Germany as well as get overused to the point of being meaningless.
For example, as The Conversation points out, comparing someone you don’t like to Hitler is nothing new, and it’s a pejorative that’s been used against George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Angela Merkel, and countless others.
But in a larger sense, these comparisons ignore the full scope of Nazi Germany’s crimes. Not once has Donald Trump, for example, suggested (let alone) carried out the mass murder of millions of people or invaded neighboring countries.