By Nathan Layne
(Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden’s 2024 re-election team on Monday said former President Donald Trump had embraced the language of Nazi German dictator Adolf Hitler by using the word “vermin” to refer to his political enemies.
Trump told a rally in New Hampshire on Saturday he would “root out the communists, Marxists, fascists and the radical left thugs that live like vermin within the confines of our country that lie and steal and cheat on elections,” repeating his false claim that fraud cost him the 2020 presidential election.
His comments, made on the Veterans Day holiday honoring military veterans, drew criticism online, with some historians saying his language mirrored that of autocrats who have sought to dehumanize their foes.
“On a weekend when most Americans were honoring our nation’s heroes, Donald Trump parroted the autocratic language of Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini – two dictators many U.S. veterans gave their lives fighting,” Biden campaign spokesperson Ammar Moussa said in a statement.
“Donald Trump thinks he can win by dividing our country. He’s wrong, and he’ll find out just how wrong next November.”
Steven Cheung, a Trump campaign spokesman, rejected the comparisons to Hitler and Italy’s Mussolini.
“Those who try to make that ridiculous assertion are clearly snowflakes grasping for anything because they are suffering from Trump Derangement Syndrome and their sad, miserable existence will be crushed when President Trump returns to the White House,” Cheung said on Monday.
Snowflake is a term used to dismiss a person as easily offended or overly sensitive.
Trump, the frontrunner for the Republican nomination to challenge Biden in November 2024, has a long history of using incendiary rhetoric to describe his perceived enemies. He told a right-leaning news site recently that immigrants who entered the country illegally were “poisoning the blood of our country.”
White House spokesperson Andrew Bates also said Trump’s use of the word “vermin” echoed Hitler and Mussolini.
“Using terms like that about dissent would be unrecognizable to our founders, but horrifyingly recognizable to American veterans who put on their country’s uniform in the 1940s,” Bates said in a statement.
Tim Naftali, a senior research scholar at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, said words like vermin have throughout history been used by autocrats to dehumanize their critics and create a climate of fear.
“That is the language that we associate with dictators. Dictators rule by fear,” said Naftali, a presidential historian. “Once you strip your opponents of their humanity you are giving license to violence against them.”
(reporting by Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut; Editing by Howard Goller)