Angry trump

Andrea Austria / Media Matters

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Right-wing media downplay and justify Trump’s “vermin” comments

During a November 10 speech, former President Donald Trump pledged to “root out” the “vermin” that “lie and steal and cheat on elections” if elected president in 2024. The comments drew criticism from activists and experts for their striking similarity to Nazi propaganda that compared Jewish people to rodents. A number of right-wing media figures responded by downplaying Trump’s comments and attacking those who pointed out their echoes of WWII-era fascist rhetoric.

  • Trump compared his political opponents to “vermin,” echoing Nazi propaganda

    • In his Veteran’s Day speech, former President Donald Trump pledged to“root out” his domestic political opponents, which he compared to “vermin.” “We pledge to you that we will root out the communist, Marxist, fascist and the radical left thugs that live like vermin within the confines of our country that lie and steal and cheat on elections and will do anything possible — they’ll do anything, whether legally or illegally — to destroy America and to destroy the American dream,” Trump said. “The real threat is not from the radical right, the real threat is from the radical left.” [Twitter/X, 11/12/23
    • Trump’s comments echoed Nazi propaganda used  to dehumanize Jewish people in the 1930s. As noted by NBC News, “Nazi propaganda referred to Jewish people as ‘vermin’ who need to be extinguished for plaguing lands, comparing them to rats that spread diseases.” [The Hill, 11/14/23; NBC News, 11/15/23
    • This is not the first time Trump’s rhetoric has drawn comparisons to Nazi propaganda.  In October, he claimed immigrants were “poisoning the blood” of the U.S., language strikingly similar to that used in Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf. “Civil rights advocates and experts in extremism and immigration policy have compared Trump’s ‘poisoning the blood’ remark to language used by Adolf Hitler in his book ‘Mein Kampf,’ in which he told Germans to ‘care for the purity of their own blood’ by eliminating Jews.” [The Washington Post, 10/12/23]
    • Broadcast news and the top 5 US newspapers mostly ignored the speech and its fascist overtones. As of November 13, CBS News, ABC News, and NBC News had not discussed the speech on their morning and evening news broadcasts. The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, USA Today, and The Wall Street Journal had not covered the former president’s comments in the news sections of their print editions. The Washington Post did publish a print article, but kept it off the front page. [Media Matters, 11/13/23]
    • Some figures on mainstream cable outlets like MSNBC and CNN have condemned Trump’s rhetoric, pointing out its association with fascist speech. MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough warned that Trump is going “full-on Hitler” while CNN hosts Wolf Blitzer and Jake Tapper both pushed back on Trump’s comments and urged Republicans to condemn them. [HuffPost, 11/13/23; Twitter/X, 11/13/23; 11/13/23]
  • Right-wing media endorsed or downplayed Trump’s comments, attacked mainstream cable news for highlighting them, and engaged in whataboutism

    • OutKick TV host Clay Travis endorsed Trump's comments, arguing that the former president “basically” said Democrats are “snakes, they’re rats. I think it’s accurate.” Travis later stated, “The left in this country went after Trump and said, yet again, their old game plan ‘oh my goodness Trump is Hitler.’ This doesn't work, alright? And I think the left is slowly having to come to this conclusion. Doesn't work because we saw what modern-day Hitler actually looks like. It's Hamas. It's people deciding to attack and kill Jews because they happen to be Jews.” [OutKick TV, OutKick the Show, 11/14/23]
    • Right-wing personality Tom Elliott claimed that “pro-Hamas anti-Semites protesting across America w/ swastikas” are more like Hitler than Trump calling illegal immigrants “vermin.” He posted: “Per @GrabienMedia CNN & MSNBC have likened Trump to Hitler 12 times so far today (owing to his calling illegal immigrants “vermin”). Bad, sure. But you know what reminds me of Hitler even more? Pro-Hamas anti-Semites protesting across America w/ swastikas & slogans about how ‘Hitler should have finished the job.’ Somehow CNN/MSNBC don't seem interested in that story.” [Twitter/X, 11/13/23]
    • Right-wing podcaster Erick Erickson wrote, “The press/left is obsessed with Trump's ‘vermin’ remark because they're tired of covering all the progressives championing genocide in the streets.” [Twitter/X, 10/13/23]
    • Conservative radio host Larry Elder downplayed Trump’s comments, asking, “What’s the leftwing media’s responsibility when Biden called ‘MAGA’ Republicans ‘semi-fascists.’” Elder posted comments made by CNN’s Jake Tapper and Wolf Blitzer about the Republican Party and its members’ responsibility in speaking out against the use of such language. [Twitter/X, 11/14/23, 11/14/23]
    • On his radio show, Fox host Mark Levin claimed that the “inhumanity that’s going on at the southern border” deserves more attention than Trump’s comments. Levin stated, “The inhumanity that's going on on that southern border is almost unspeakable. To little kids and women being sold into sex slaves? They used to jump on Trump about cages. Cages? You see what's going on today, is that Hitler? Is Biden Hitler? But Trump uses the word ‘vermin,’ and he’s Hitler. And the Democrat Party and their media are telling us that if he’s elected, we’re gonna lose our democracy.” [Westwood One, The Mark Levin Show, 11/13/23]
    • Newsmax host Rob Schmitt defended Trump’s “vermin” comments, saying it “doesn't sound quite so bad when you hear the context.” He also claimed that “legacy media has escalated the rhetoric dramatically, no doubt in response to Trump’s 2024 domination that’s visible even in left-wing polls by CNN and The New York Times.” [Newsmax, Rob Schmitt Tonight, 11/13/23]
    • The Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro also minimized the impact of Trump’s rhetoric and tried to divert blame from Trump, arguing that the criticism is “just another distraction.” “I think that we should deport an enormous number of people who support terrorism,” Shapiro argued. “The language of ‘vermin’ is not particularly smart political language. But, again, you know, is that going to, like, hurt Trump in any real way? I don't think it's going to hurt Trump in any real way. It's just another distraction.” [The Daily Wire, The Ben Shapiro Show, 11/13/23]
    • Daily Wire host Michael Knowles claimed that the left has always called Trump and conservatives fascists. He also stated that Democrats calling him a fascist is the “strategy that they have been using the entire time to finally take down Donald Trump.” [The Daily Wire, The Michael Knowles Show, 11/14/23]
    • An article for NewsBusters downplayed the “vermin” comments and asserted that “calling Donald Trump a ‘fascist’ is [MSNBC host] Joe Scarborough’s stock in trade.” The article also rejected Scarborough’s claim that Trump’s “vermin” remarks had gone “full-on Hitler,” in part citing his decision “to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem,” and instead claimed “that the scourge of antisemitism in America lies largely on the left.” [NewsBusters, 11/13/23
    • A RedState article argued that “Democrats Are Pretending Trump Is Hitler Again” and “left-wing activist media is trotting out one of their favorite tropes about former President Donald Trump.” “Once again, far-leftists are running around on social media calling Trump Hitler for comments he made during the speech,” writer Jeff Charles claimed, because “the former president indicated that he would fight back against the left-wing authoritarians in America’s institutions.” [RedState, 11/13/23]