In May 2021, many observers responded in outrage to remarks attributed to U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a controversial first-term Republican congresswoman from Georgia. For example, on May 21, the CNN anchor Jake Tapper posted a short video of Greene, along with the following description:
“MTG [Marjorie Taylor Greene] says Speaker Pelosi wanting Members of Congress to get vaccinated and if not to wear masks is ‘exactly the type of abuse’ as murdering Jews in gas chambers during the Holocaust and David Brody nods along. No follow up.”
CNN reported that:
“Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, during an interview on a conservative podcast this week, compared House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s decision to continue to require members of the House to wear masks on the chamber floor to steps the Nazis took to control the Jewish population during the Holocaust.”
Those descriptions were accurate. Taylor Greene did indeed liken existing and potential new COVID-19 mitigation rules for members of the U.S. House of Representatives to the persecution and mass murder of Jews in Nazi Germany, during the Holocaust. We are issuing a rating of “Correct Attribution.”
What Exactly Did Marjorie Taylor Greene Say About COVID-19 Rules and the Holocaust?
Greene was among several GOP House members fined or given written warnings, earlier in the week, for failing or refusing to wear face masks on the floor of the House of Representatives.
Against that backdrop, she made the remarks in question during a May 20 interview with David Brody on Real America’s Voice, a right-wing satellite and internet television channel. The relevant section of the interview can be viewed below.
Brody presented Taylor Greene with a short clip from a press conference by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, earlier that day. Pelosi lamented the fact that several Republican House members had so far failed or refused to get vaccinated against COVID-19, and said mask-wearing and other restrictions could not yet be lifted because “We have to wait for them to be vaccinated, because they are, selfishly, a dangerment [sic] to other people.”
Although he did not play them for Taylor Greene, Brody also alluded to remarks Pelosi had made during the same press conference, which he characterized as a proposal to “segregate” unvaccinated House members. Pelosi speculated that a juncture might arrive where unmasked and unvaccinated members were told not to come to the House floor at all, but rather made to use “facilities up above in the gallery,” in order to vote and conduct their business, adding “We don’t want to deter anybody’s ability to exercise their constitutional duties.”
After the clip of Pelosi, the following exchange took place:
Brody: This is out of control, Congresswoman.
Taylor Greene: This woman is mentally ill. You know, we can look back on a time in history where people were told to wear a gold star and they were definitely treated like second-class citizens. So much so that they were put in trains and taken to gas chambers in Nazi Germany. And this is exactly the type of abuse that Nancy Pelosi is talking about…
Taylor Greene did not say that House rules on mask-wearing “had echoes of” the persecution and mass murder of millions of Jews. She did not say that proposals to force unvaccinated and maskless members to use physically separate facilities to exercise their duties “followed the same underlying principles as” the Holocaust, nor that they were a “microcosm” or “less extreme version” of that unprecedented atrocity.
She explicitly and specifically stated that the marginalization, dehumanization, and mass execution of millions of Jews and other minority groups was “exactly the type of abuse” seen in House COVID-19 mitigation rules, and Pelosi’s views on them. She therefore unambiguously likened the House rules, and Pelosi’s remarks, to the worst atrocities of the Holocaust.
As Tapper correctly stated in his tweet, Brody did indeed nod approvingly at Taylor Greene’s remarks. The full interview shows that he never followed up on her comments, challenged them, nor asked her to clarify or explain them. The following day, Brody broadcast a follow-up segment which purported to present the “other side” of the Congresswoman’s remarks. Brody did not himself address the substance of the objections to what Taylor Greene had said, but rather described the episode as “a PR [public relations] nightmare”:
Clearly, when she said that, you knew it was going to be controversial, and here’s why: From a PR perspective, any time you kind of “go there,” when you start to talk about Holocaust-type tactics — gas chambers and that — it is a PR nightmare, and this is exactly what’s happening here. Was the sentiment coming from a bad place? No. But the PR aspect to this has obviously caused a few ripples out there.
Taylor Greene’s remarks were met with widespread, but not universal, condemnation. U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, the Wyoming congresswoman recently ousted from her position as House Republican Conference Chair for criticizing former President Donald Trump’s baseless allegations of decisive and large-scale electoral fraud, said on Twitter that Taylor Greene’s comments amounted to “Evil lunacy.”
The American Jewish Congress also condemned Taylor Greene’s remarks, writing:
“You can never compare health-related restrictions with yellow stars, gas chambers & other Nazi atrocities. Such comparisons demean the Holocaust & contaminate American political speech. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene must immediately retract and apologize.”
As of May 24, Taylor Greene had not retracted or modified her comments, nor apologized for them. On May 23, three days after her initial comments, she wrote on Twitter “I’m sorry some of my words make people uncomfortable.”
Of course, the reason for the backlash against her remarks was not that they had made anyone uncomfortable, but rather that by equating the systematic dehumanization and execution of millions of Jews, on the one hand, with requiring financially and politically privileged officeholders to protect the wellbeing of others at their workplace through standard and commonplace infectious disease mitigation measures, Taylor Greene was, unavoidably and by definition, massively and inaccurately downplaying the scale and severity of the atrocities endured and inflicted during the Holocaust.