Jewish Atlanta Reacts to Comparison of President to Hitler
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Jewish Atlanta Reacts to Comparison of President to Hitler

In a controversial statement, U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson attempted to parallels between President Donald Trump and Adolf Hitler.

U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, a Democrat from Georgia’s fourth Congressional District, found himself in hot water yet again following a New Year’s Day address to the NAACP. His speech, at Friendship Baptist Church during a celebration of the 156th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, drew parallels between President Donald Trump and another leader, Adolf Hitler.

“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 said.

In particular, Johnson compared both men calling for and approving of violence in their rallies.

“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,” Johnson said from the pulpit.

Jewish Atlantans on both sides responded strongly to Johnson’s remarks. Todd Stein, a Democrat, admonished Johnson for his remarks.

“Invoking Hitler and Nazi Germany when describing American politics should not be done without exception. The comparison made by Rep. Johnson diminishes the brutality and lessons of the Holocaust and makes solving our political differences that much harder,” he said, explaining that there are better avenues for Johnson to address the president.

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“As a Democrat, I would like to see Rep. Johnson harness America’s immense dissatisfaction with President Trump’s politics, policies and ethics to present an alternative and unifying path forward for the country,” Stein said. “Fomenting more division, as Rep. Johnson did with his comments, fails to do that.”

Bonnie Berk, co-chair of the Republican Jewish Coalition, also shared her thoughts on Johnson’s speech.

“This man is an embarrassment to the U.S. House,” she said. “The horrors of the Holocaust were unimaginable; the suffering and death almost beyond human comprehension.”

She also questioned whether or not Johnson had learned from the past.

“Has Rep. Johnson visited the Holocaust museum in D.C., or the new museum on slavery and lynching in Montgomery, Ala.? Those are places to experience man’s inhumanity to man.”

In a statement, RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks called for a Congressional censure of the congressman.

“Cong. Johnson continues to demonstrate his defective understanding of reality with his latest outburst. His remarks about President Trump are unconscionable.”

U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson is a Democrat from Georgia’s fourth Congressional District.

Johnson later clarified his remarks to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, though he didn’t walk back what he said.

“I wanted to make the point that our democracy is under severe threat, that freedom is threatened, and that if we are not vigilant, we can allow tyranny to set in,” he said.

His words haven’t just perturbed Jewish Georgians, they also bothered fellow House members like Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas).

His New Year’s Day speech is not the first time Johnson has found himself at odds with much of the Atlanta Jewish community. In 2016, Johnson compared Jewish settlers in the West Bank to termites. The AJT published an editorial condemning his remarks.

“That’s a particularly vile association because the Nazis justified their attempts to exterminate Jews by portraying us as vermin. Anyone who compares Jews to termites, or Jewish construction to termite construction, is just begging to be accused of anti-Semitism,” the AJT wrote.

Johnson apologized for his remarks in a letter to his constituents at that time.

“The language I used was not only unacceptable, but it was hurtful,” he wrote. “I deeply regret using this terrible metaphor. It was not only nonconstructive, it was wrong.”

He also sat down for an interview with the AJT, in which he again apologized for his remarks, but claimed he was describing the settlement process, not the people involved. He also described his recent trip to Israel and Palestine and the events that led up to his remarks.

“I was alarmed at the deterioration of conditions and the spirit of the Palestinian people who want peace, but peace appears to be more and more unlikely, peace based on a two-state solution, … because of the ongoing construction and approval of new settlements.”

He has yet to apologize for his most recent remarks.

Johnson serves on the House Judiciary Committee and the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. He is the ranking member of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet.

Summing up her feelings on the matter, Berk called for Johnson’s replacement.

“This is a seat that needs a new occupant,” she said

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