Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) gave an eyebrow-raising speech on New Year’s Day, comparing President Trump to Adolf Hitler and insulting his supporters as “older, less educated, and less prosperous individuals” who “are dying early” of a laundry list of maladies including “a broken heart.”
Johnson gave the dystopian speech at the Friendship Baptist Church in Atlanta for the local NAACP chapter’s Jubilee marking the 156th anniversary of the implementation of the Emancipation Proclamation. His remarks comparing Trump to Hitler have prompted condemnations from multiple Jewish groups, including the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC), which recommended that Johnson be censured by his colleagues.
In his speech, the Georgia Democrat urged his constituents to have vigilance here at home where, he stated, “Americans elected an authoritarian, anti-immigrant, racist strongman to the nation’s highest office.”
“Donald Trump and his Make America Great Again followers who want to return America back to a time when white men and white privilege were unchallenged and where minorities and women were in their place … are older, less educated, less prosperous, and they are dying early,” Johnson declared.
He painted MAGA voters as sad sacks whose short, brutal lives were ripe for a Hitleresque tyrant to exploit.
“Their lifespans are decreasing, and many are dying from alcoholism, drug overdoses, liver disease, or simply a broken heart caused by economic despair,” he said.
The Georgia Democrat warned that “right-wing ideologues gain power by playing on people’s economic despair, pitting working people against each other, inflaming racial tensions by blaming economic hardship on people of color.”
Then he compared the pro-life Republican president to Adolf Hitler.
“The Jewish people understand tyranny. Charismatic and a good public speaker, deceptive and cunning, Adolf Hitler rose to power to lead Germany in 1932 after democratic elections. He rode a wave of nationalism and antisemitism to power,” he stated ominously.
“Replace antisemitism with all the Latinos crossing our borders are rapists, drug dealers and murderers [Trump never said that]. Does that sound familiar?” Johnson queried the crowd. “Yes!” a man shouted in reply.
The congressman also brought up the specter of Charlottesville, asserting that Trump said “there were bad people on both sides” which “sent a powerful message of approval to the far-right racists in America.”
[The president, of course, had initially stated that there were “very fine people” on both sides — meaning the Confederate statue debate. He later condemned the white supremacists in Charlottesville.]
“Americans, particularly black Americans, can’t afford to make that same mistake about the harm that could be done by a man named Hitler or a man named Trump,” Johnson said.
Both men, Johnson said, were charismatic public speakers, received hard-to-track donations from wealthy industrialists, and stirred up their supporters at raucous rallies.
“Hitler was accepting of violence towards the achievement of political objectives,” Johnson said.
He added that “much like Hitler took over the Nazi party, Trump has taken over the Republican party. It’s now known as the Trump Republican Party.”
In reaction to Johnson’s comments, an Anti-Defamation League spokesperson told The Daily Caller:
We appreciate Rep. Johnson’s strong stance against anti-Semitism and his focus on the need to treat all people with dignity. As we’ve said before, we believe all people must be extremely careful in drawing comparisons to the Holocaust or the Nazi regime in whatever context. The lesson that should be reinforced from that dark time is that all good people need to speak out clearly and quickly when morally abhorrent actions are taken by those in power against any group.
Andy Hollinger, the communications director of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, decried the increase in comparisons made between Hitler and someone they dislike.
“This oversimplified approach to complex history is dangerous,” his statement reads. “As the Holocaust recedes in time, some Americans (and Europeans) are becoming increasingly casual and disrespectful to the mass murder of millions.”
Max Brooks, the executive director of the RJC, said Johnson should be censured by his colleagues in the House for the Hitler comparison.
“Johnson continues to demonstrate his defective understanding of reality with his latest outburst,” Brooks said. “His remarks about President Trump are unconscionable.”
“The House of Representatives should hold Johnson accountable for his words by censuring him when the new Congress convenes this week,” Brooks added.
In 2016, Rep. Johnson was strongly condemned by the Simon Wiesenthal Center for making grossly anti-Semitic comments at an anti-Israel “Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions” (BDS) event.
He called Jewish settlers in Judea and Samaria “termites” and condemned the “Jewish people” who were “stealing” the land and property of Palestinians.
“Referring to those you don’t like as sub-human should be beyond the pale in decent human society,” said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. “Mr. Johnson shames not only himself, but Congress and the House Armed Services Committee on which he serves, which is entrusted with the responsibility of keeping our brave men and women in the military safe.”
“Mr. Johnson’s sad performance at least helps the rest of us understand both the desperation and failed intellect of the BDS movement,” added Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein, the Center’s director of interfaith affairs. “The audience applauded the vicious words of a person best known to America for telling the commander of the Pacific Fleet that Guam was so overpopulated that he feared it would tip over and capsize. In 2014, congressional staffers voted Mr. Johnson ‘Worst Speaker’ and ‘Most Clueless’ on their biennial ‘Best & Worst of Congress’ list.”
Johnson is expected to have a senior position on the Judiciary Committee when the Democrats take over the U.S. House.