Purporting to give evidence that Congress is over-privileged and disconnected from voters, Wesley Pruden falsely claimed in his Washington Times column that Democratic Sens. Chris Dodd and Kent Conrad "are under investigation by ethics committees for taking sweetheart mortgages" and that "Democratic congressmen (and women) denounce the voters who sent them to Washington as Nazis, Brown Shirts and the 'un-American.' " In fact, the Senate Ethics Committee found that Dodd and Conrad "did not violate ethics rules," and Democrats did not refer to health care opponents as "Nazis," "Brown Shirts," or "un-American"; rather, they denounced protesters' tactics.
Pruden: Dodd, Conrad "under investigation," Democrats said protesters were Nazis, Brown Shirts, and "un-American"
From Pruden's August 14 column:
The congressional entitlement to privilege, wrought not by talent or inheritance but by legislation, explains the typical congressman's blindness to tint and deafness to tone, revealed in the angry "town hall" confrontations over health care legislation. Instead of reassuring frightened constituents, Democratic congressmen (and women) denounce the voters who sent them to Washington as Nazis, Brown Shirts and the "un-American." Harry Reid, the leader of the Senate Democrats, calls the critics "evil-mongers." Congress is dead to anything outside the bubble it has created for itself.
Sens. Kent Conrad of North Dakota and Chris Dodd of Connecticut, for scandalous example, are under investigation by ethics committees for taking sweetheart mortgages from Countrywide Financial Corp., the sort of sweetheart deals mere citizens could never get. To hear the senators tell it, the deals were merely rewards for their charm and enchanting ways. The fact that Mr. Conrad is chairman of the Senate Budget Committee and Mr. Dodd is chairman of the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee had nothing to do with anything.
Senate Ethics Committee cleared Dodd and Conrad of charges
Senate Ethics Committee: "No substantial credible evidence" of ethics violations. In August 7 letters to Dodd and Conrad, the Senate Ethics Committee dismissed charges against them, concluding that they "did not violate ethics rules." The letters, signed by Democratic Sens. Barbara Boxer (CA), Mark Pryor (AR), Sherrod Brown (OH), and Republican Sens. Johnny Isakson (GA), Pat Roberts (KS), and James Risch (ID) said: "While the Committee finds no substantial credible evidence as required by Committee rules that your Countrywide mortgages violated Senate ethics rules, the Committee does believe that you should have exercised more vigilance in your dealings with Countrywide in order to avoid the appearance that you were receiving preferential treatment based on your status as a Senator."
Democrats denounced protest tactics at health care town halls, not opposing views on reform
Pelosi, Hoyer wrote: "Drowning out opposing views is simply un-American." From House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer's August 10 USA Today op-ed:
[A]s members of Congress spend time at home during August, they are talking with their constituents about reform. The dialogue between elected representatives and constituents is at the heart of our democracy and plays an integral role in assuring that the legislation we write reflects the genuine needs and concerns of the people we represent.
However, it is now evident that an ugly campaign is underway not merely to misrepresent the health insurance reform legislation, but to disrupt public meetings and prevent members of Congress and constituents from conducting a civil dialogue. These tactics have included hanging in effigy one Democratic member of Congress in Maryland and protesters holding a sign displaying a tombstone with the name of another congressman in Texas, where protesters also shouted "Just say no!" drowning out those who wanted to hold a substantive discussion.
Let the facts be heard
These disruptions are occurring because opponents are afraid not just of differing views -- but of the facts themselves. Drowning out opposing views is simply un-American. Drowning out the facts is how we failed at this task for decades.
Health care is complex. It touches every American life. It drives our economy. People must be allowed to learn the facts. [USA Today, 8/10/09]
Baird reportedly said protesters would "ambush" town halls, using "Brown Shirt tactics." From an August 6 (Vancouver, WA) Columbian article:
Over 10 years in Congress, U.S. Rep. Brian Baird has stayed tethered to his district, flying back to Southwest Washington for more than 300 sometimes-bruising town hall meetings during Congressional recesses.
But this year, he's literally decided to phone it in.
Instead of appearing in person, where "extremists" would have "the chance to shout and make YouTube videos," Baird said Wednesday, he's holding what he calls "telephone town halls" instead.
Baird said he's using the new system because he fears his political opponents may be planning "an ambush" to disrupt his meetings, using methods Baird compared to Nazism.
"What we're seeing right now is close to Brown Shirt tactics," Baird, D-Vancouver, said in a phone interview. "I mean that very seriously."
The coming telephone conference call would be Baird's third this year.
His office used its Congressional allowance to buy the necessary software around the start of 2009, a spokesman said.
Media falsely claimed Pelosi called or suggested that opponents of health reform are "Nazis"
Joe Scarborough claimed Pelosi called opponents "Nazis." On the August 10 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe, co-host Joe Scarborough stated, "[O]n the left, you've got a speaker calling Americans un-American for going to town hall meetings and accusing them of carrying swastikas in there." After co-host Mika Brzezinski asked, "How do you respond to this ridiculous stuff that's coming out of the right?" Scarborough replied, "[Y]ou don't do it by calling your opponents Nazis."
Gregg Jarrett claimed Pelosi "sort of suggested that any American citizen that dared voice an objection in a protest is a Nazi." On the August 10 edition of Fox News' Studio B with Shepard Smith, Fox News anchor Gregg Jarrett falsely asserted, "First of all, in the beginning, Pelosi sort of suggested that any American citizen who dared voice an objection in a protest is a Nazi, apparently based on one isolated incident."
Peggy Noonan suggested Pelosi called protesters "Nazi-like." In her August 8 Wall Street Journal column, Peggy Noonan wrote that Pelosi "accused the people at the meetings of 'carrying swastikas and symbols like that.' (Apparently one protester held a hand-lettered sign with a 'no' slash over a swastika.)" Noonan further wrote, "But they are not Nazis, they're Americans," later adding, "[I]f you're president ... [y]ou cannot allow your allies to call people protesting a health-care plan 'extremists' and 'right wing,' or bought, or Nazi-like, either. They're citizens. They're concerned. They deserve respect."
WSJ columnist James Taranto claimed Pelosi "insinuated that they are Nazis." In his August 7 Wall Street Journal column, James Taranto wrote: "One should never in earnest liken a political opponent to the Nazis if that opponent does not practice or advocate genocide or totalitarianism." He continued:
The easy recourse to Nazi analogies -- far more common on the left than the right -- debases the currency of moral outrage and can only diminish moral clarity.
So was Nancy Pelosi right? Not a chance.
Let's review her words again: "I think they're AstroTurf. You be the judge. They're carrying swastikas and symbols like that to a town meeting on health care." Who carries swastikas? Nazis. Pelosi did not complain that the protesters were comparing ObamaCare to Nazism; she insinuated that they are Nazis.
Limbaugh claimed Pelosi "is saying the people who oppose this are Nazis." On the August 6 broadcast of his radio show, Rush Limbaugh stated of Pelosi, "She's basically saying that we are Nazis. She is saying that the people who oppose this are Nazis, and I'm going to tell you what."
Pelosi actually said protesters were "carrying swastikas and symbols like that to a town meeting on health care"
Speaking to reporters, Pelosi was asked if she thought there was "legitimate grassroots opposition" at recent town hall events. She responded:
PELOSI: I think they're Astroturf; you be the judge. They're carrying swastikas and symbols like that to a town meeting on health care.
Pelosi was right: Swastikas have appeared at town hall meetings
As Media Matters for America has noted, multiple protesters at health care reform protests have held signs featuring swastikas, often juxtaposed with references to the Obama administration.