(JTA) — U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, a Georgia Democrat, compared Donald Trump’s election as president to the rise of Adolf Hitler in Germany.
Speaking from the pulpit of a Baptist church in Atlanta, Johnson said Hitler “rode a wave of nationalism and anti-Semitism to power. Replace anti-Semitism with ‘all Latinos crossing our borders are rapists, drug dealers and murderers.’ Does that sound familiar?”
The lawmaker made his remarks Tuesday at an event sponsored by the Atlanta NAACP to mark the 156th anniversary of the implementation of the Emancipation Proclamation.
“Americans elected an authoritarian, racist, anti-immigrant strongman to the nation’s highest office,” he also said at Friendship Baptist Church, according to Roll Call. “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 also referred to the far-right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, from the summer of 2017 in which a counterprotester was killed and anti-Semitic chants were heard. Trump in response said that “I think there is blame on both sides … But you also had people that were very fine people, on both sides.” The president was roundly criticized for the statement.
“Hitler was accepting of violence towards the achievement of political objectives,” Johnson said. “Trump encouraged violence against protesters at his rallies, and his messaging about Charlottesville — that there were bad people on both sides — sent a powerful message of approval to the far-right racists in America.”
Jewish groups tend to find Hitler and Nazi comparisons by politicians offensive.
“Comparing the President of the United States to a tyrannical dictator who has the blood of six-million Jews on his hands is outrageous and beyond the pale,” Farley Weiss, president of the National Council of Young Israel, said in a statement.
The Republican Jewish Coalition called Johnson’s remarks “unconscionable.”