A Florida Republican congressman who likened Democrats' opinion shaping to the efforts of Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels defended his comment Friday as criticism mounted.
U.S. Rep. Allen West, a freshman, made the Nazi reference Thursday when asked about Congress' approval ratings and the blame that the public has apparently assigned to Republicans.
"If Joseph Goebbels was around, he'd be very proud of the Democrat Party because they have an incredible propaganda machine," West said, according to Politico, the Arlington, Va.-based news organization that first reported the comments.
Goebbels was Adolf Hitler's propaganda minister.
West represents a South Florida district that has an influential Jewish constituency and a sizeable population of Holocaust survivors. He told reporters, in his remarks at the Capitol, that he was comparing Democrats to Nazi propaganda, not the Nazis themselves, but that did little to quell controversy.
"Congressman West needs to immediately apologize for insulting the memories of the millions who lost their lives during the Holocaust," said Steve Israel, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. "Comparing political differences today to the worst Nazi propagandist diminishes what happened to millions of Jewish families during the Second World War. Unfortunately, this isn't the first time that Congressman West has made this type of hateful remark that makes a mockery of what millions of Jewish families suffered."
West, one of two new black Republicans to join the 112th Congress this year, is a tea party favorite who has repeatedly drawn attention for off-the-cuff comments. He defended his latest remarks, saying through a spokeswoman that twisting his comments was "a perfect example" of what he was talking about.
"Congressman West was referring to the 'lies, deception and manipulation' coming from the Democrat propaganda machine and comparing that to the same misinformation coming from Goebbels during World War II," spokeswoman Angela Sachitano said.
Invoking Goebbels has gotten numerous public figures in hot water.
Earlier this year, U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, a Tennessee Democrat, likened Republican arguments against the health overhaul law to those of Goebbels. California Gov. Jerry Brown, while running for office last year, caused a stir when he compared the advertising ability of his billionaire opponent to Goebbels. And a Brazilian foreign minister drew rebukes in 2008 for saying rich countries' deception in trade talks reminded him of Goebbels' tactics.