Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., has received hundreds of angry phone calls at his district and D.C. offices since giving a speech that likened the political moment that brought President Donald Trump to power to the rise of Adolf Hitler.
And some of those messages have been racist and threatening, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
“Americans elected an authoritarian, racist, anti-immigrant strongman to the nation’s highest office,” the Democrat said in a speech to the Atlanta NAACP earlier this month. “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’s comparison hinged on Trump’s central policy issue: his hardline immigration stance.
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?” Johnson asked, to a chorus of “yeses” from the crowd at the historic Friendship Baptist Church.
Rightwing media personalities first called attention to Johnson’s address. Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel said Johnson had made a “disgusting comparison.” Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas, then responded to the remarks in a video posted to Twitter that has garnered 2.2 million views.
“President Trump is a lot of things, but he’s not Hitler,” Crenshaw said. “He didn’t kill millions of people. He didn’t start a World War.”
Johnson has argued that his words have been taken too literally, and that he only meant to issue a warning that “if we are not vigilant we can allow tyranny to set in,” he told the Journal-Constitution.
Crenshaw also disputed Johnson’s description of Trump voters as “dying from alcoholism, drug overdoses, liver disease, or simply a broken heart caused by economic despair.”
Crenshaw argued Johnson painted conservatives as the “dregs of society.”
Johnson clarified to the paper that he did not intend to demean Republican voters.
“I certainly love all people,” he said. “My heart goes out to all of those people who are suffering economic harm and despair.”
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