House Speaker Nancy Pelosi threw Rush Limbaugh into a snit when she objected to use of Nazi symbols by anti-health-reform protesters.

On Aug. 5, when a reporter asked Pelosi if she thought the right-wing-organized protests were real grassroots expressions, she replied, ‘I think they are Astroturf, you be the judge.’

Astroturf, the fake grass used in sports arenas, is being used to refer to fake “grassroots” happenings that are a specialty of far-right groups, going back to the “Brooks Brothers riot” in December 2000 that intimidated Miami-Dade election officials into stopping the vote recounting.

‘They’re carrying swastikas and symbols like that to a town hall meeting on health care,’ Pelosi noted.

Limbaugh, the next day on his radio talk show, accused Pelosi of being “deranged” because “she’s running around now claiming that we’re Nazis, that not only are we an unruly mob but that people are showing up wearing swastikas.”

But a spokesman for Pelosi told that Pelosi was referring to a photo taken at a Massachusetts town hall meeting hosted by Democratic Rep. Ed Markey. The photo showed a protester holding a sign bearing a swastika crossed out over Obama’s name and a question mark.

Also in Massachusetts, according to news reports, one protester compared Democratic Rep. Jim McGovern to the Nazi Josef Mengele, who did ghastly medical experiments on concentration camp prisoners.

At a photo site linked to the right-wing, someone named Dallas59 posted a photo of people at an unidentified rally holding a giant photo of Obama with a Hitler mustache drawn on.

On Aug. 7, CNN’s Rick Sanchez identified the same photo as from a rally outside a health care forum in Romulus, Mich.

Sanchez also displayed a photo from Texas of a man holding a sign depicting Democratic Rep. Lloyd Doggett as the devil, next to another sign with the symbol of the Nazi SS and a slogan talking about stopping socialism.

Today, Rep. David Scott, D-Ga., told reporters that his district office in Smyrna was vandalized with a four-foot swastika last night.

Viveca Novak, at, writes, “Pelosi did not actually accuse opponents of being neo-Nazis; that’s just the way Limbaugh and others chose to interpret her phrase, ‘carrying swastikas and symbols like that.’ It is clear from the images in hand that the anti-Obama protesters were the ones accusing others of Nazi-like tendencies. And Pelosi turns out to be right.”

In fact, Limbaugh spent much of his Aug. 6 radio diatribe invoking the Nazis and Adolf Hitler in a highly provocative way, with a strong paranoid streak.

Limbaugh declared, “The Democrat Party and where it’s taken this country, the radical left leadership of this party bears much more resemblance to Nazi policies than anything we on the right believe in at all.”

“The Obama health care logo is damn close to a Nazi swastika logo,” Limbaugh claimed, calling it “right out of Adolf Hitler’s playbook.” He likened Obama to Adolf Hitler, saying President Obama is “not who he said he was” and cannot be trusted.

An event today showed that Limbaugh’s provocative language is not just an abstract matter.

MSNBC today aired footage of the crowd gathering before Obama’s afternoon town hall meeting on health care in New Hampshire, and pointed out one man in a group holding protest signs with a gun in a holster on his hip.

The gun-toting protestor was holding a sign reading “It is Time to Water the Tree of Liberty.” It is a reference to the Thomas Jefferson quote: ‘The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants.’ Police said the man is legally carrying the gun, is nowhere near where the president will be, and is ‘under constant surveillance,’ Talking Points Memo reports.

Last Friday, major Jewish groups condemned the use of Nazi comparisons and images to attack health care reform.

David A. Harris, president of the National Jewish Democratic Council, called the Nazi references ‘not funny’ and ‘profoundly troubling.’

‘At these too-well-organized ‘mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore’ town hall meetings around the country this August, more and more of these disturbing Nazi comparisons are cropping up — and they all seem to be coming from the heart of the Republican base,’ he said. ‘And it has to stop.’

The Anti-Defamation League issued a statement condemning the use of Nazi imagery by some reform opponents as ‘outrageous, offensive and inappropriate.’

The ADL, the nation’s largest Jewish civil rights group, specifically condemned Limbaugh’s Nazi comparisons.

“The use of Nazi symbolism is outrageous, offensive and inappropriate,’ said ADL national director Abraham H. Foxman, a Holocaust survivor.

‘Comparisons to the Nazis are deeply offensive and only serve to diminish and trivialize the extent of the Nazi regime’s crimes against humanity and the murder of six million Jews and millions of others in the Holocaust,’ said Foxman. ‘I don’t see any comparison here. It’s off-center, off-issue and completely inappropriate.’

The National Jewish Democratic Council has an “Tell Rush: Nazi Rhetoric Must Stop.” It calls on Clear Channel Communications (the parent company of Premiere Radio Networks which produces “The Rush Limbaugh Show”) to “stop allowing Limbaugh to abuse the memory of the more than 12 million Holocaust victims who suffered and died at the hands of Adolf Hitler and his Nazi regime.”

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Susan Webb
Susan Webb

Susan Webb is a retired co-editor of People's World. She has written on a range of topics both international - the Iraq war, World Social Forums in Brazil and India, the Israel-Palestinian conflict and controversy over the U.S. role in Okinawa - and domestic - including the meaning of socialism for Americans, attacks on Planned Parenthood, the U.S. as top weapons merchant, and more.