Following House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's comment that protestors are “carrying swastikas and symbols like that to a town meeting on health care,” numerous conservatives have misrepresented her comment to claim that she referred to the protestors or opponents of health care reform as “Nazis.” Some conservatives have also falsely claimed Pelosi was lying or being misleading when she noted that protestors have had signs with swastika symbols.
Media falsely assert 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, 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 that same day's 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, 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.
Media also accuse Pelosi of lying for saying protesters were “carrying swastikas”
Washington Times called Pelosi's “carrying swastikas” statement “misleading.” In an August 10 editorial, The Washington Times wrote that Pelosi “misleadingly decried protesters 'carrying swastikas.' ” The Times added, “Closer examination revealed that in every case, the symbol was being used as a warning against the arrogance of power of which Mrs. Pelosi has become emblematic.”
Andrew Breitbart: Pelosi “blatantly lied and said that the protesters were wielding 'swastikas and symbols like that.' ” In an August 10 Washington Times op-ed, Andrew Breitbart wrote that Pelosi “blatantly lied and said that the protesters were wielding 'swastikas and symbols like that.' ”
WSJ's Stephen Moore: Pelosi swastikas statement “suggests she is completely clueless.” On the August 7 edition of Fox News' Glenn Beck, Wall Street Journal editorial board member Stephen Moore stated, “People just feel like the politicians aren't paying any attention to what the voters care about.” He continued, "[T]hen they have Nancy Pelosi say, 'Well, the people who go to these rallies have swastikas,' just suggests she is completely clueless."
Taranto wrote that “Pelosi's claim about 'swastikas' is the product of a fevered imagination.” In his August 6 Wall Street Journal column, after defining “Astroturf[ing]” as “professionally staging protests and lending them credibility via the false impression of spontaneity,” Taranto wrote, “As far as we know, Pelosi's claim about 'swastikas' is the product of a fevered imagination. If there were swastikas, they would hardly be a sign of professionalism.”
Pelosi was right: Swastikas have appeared at town hall meetings
As Media Matters for America senior fellow Eric Boehlert and Fox News contributor Alan Colmes have noted, multiple protesters at health care reform protests have held signs featuring swastikas. From Boehlert's post titled, "Jonah Goldberg goes in search of swastikas":
From Colmes' post titled, "Pelosi Is Correct: They ARE Carrying Swastikas At Town Hall Meetings":
From the August 7 edition of Fox News' Glenn Beck:
MOORE: I've never seen anything more insulting, Eric, than what's happened in the last week where the left is attacking many of the very voters that voted for Barack Obama. In fact, Ann and Eric, I actually went to a lot of these town hall meetings and a lot of these tea parties that have happened around the country. I know, Ann, you've been to a lot of them, too.
And I have talked to a lot of people -- they voted for Barack Obama. A lot of them were independent. Many of them, Eric, had never been to a political rally before in their whole life. And the only thing I'd add to what Ann is saying, of course, they don't like the health care bill. But I think it's wider than that.
I think this -- it's a kind of spontaneous combustion of frustration, not just about the health care bill, which most Americans don't like, but it also goes back to the bailouts, to the massive stimulus bill. People just feel like the politicians aren't paying any attention to what the voters care about. And then they have Nancy Pelosi say, “Well, the people who go to these rallies have swastikas,” just suggests she is completely clueless.