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WaPo Columnists receive backlash for comparing ‘Trump’s democracy denial’ to ‘Holocaust denial’

Deborah E. Lipstadt, a Holocaust historian, and Norman Eisen, a child of a Holocaust survivor, wrote a joint op-ed in the Washington Post last Wednesday equating President Donald Trump’s claims that the 2020 election “was stolen” to Holocaust denial.

The two columnists wrote that “As students of history, we do not make this comparison lightly: No lie could be as bad as denying the reality of a genocide. But democracy denial is bad enough.”

The President’s “democracy denial,” they added, has “an unmistakable racial tinge” because his claims focus on “particular cities with large Black populations — Philadelphia, Detroit, Milwaukee, Atlanta.”

Nathan Lewin, a criminal defense attorney who has taught at Georgetown, Harvard, University of Chicago, George Washington University and Columbia law, criticized Lipstadt and Eisen’s piece in Israel’s Arutz Sheva Tuesday as both “reprehensible and revolting.”

In his op-ed, Lewin, who is Jewish and is open about his admiration for Trump for his continued success in creating Middle East peace, but is also “appalled by his extravagant narcissism and capriciousness,” writes that Lipstadt is renowned for standing up to Holocaust deniers, pointing to when she was sued in England 20-years ago and won her case against a Holocaust denier.

Eisen, Lewin also recognizes, for his expertise in legal ethics and his background as the son of an Auschwitz survivor. Lewin also points to the fact that Eisen was former President Barack Obama’s classmate in law school and later served in his administration as U.S. Ambassador to the Czech Republic.

“Touting their Jewish credentials and Holocaust expertise and experience, Lipstadt and Eisen opine that contesting the results of the presidential election parallels Holocaust denial,” Lewin writes.

“To say that this cheapens the memory of the 6 million who were exterminated in the Holocaust is a gross understatement. Comparing the Nazis’ genocide to some criticized contemporary conduct is a sophisticated form of Holocaust denial,” Lewin adds.

Still, Lipstadt and Eisen see “Trump’s electoral falsehoods,” including his claims that “millions of votes” were “stolen” and his allegations of a “global conspiracy to tamper with election equipment,” similar to Holocaust denial.

The two make clear that they’re not comparing Trump to Adolf Hitler. They do, however, say that Trump has adopted the same “propaganda technique” as Hitler’s “big lie,” which Hitler laid out in his infamous book “Mein Kampf.”

Finally, to the writers, Trump’s denial of the overall election results can also be compared to Holocaust denial.

In order to combat “Trump’s big lie,” Lipstadt and Eisen propose several solutions: “attack” the “propaganda,” “refute the falsehoods that the president is purveying, which tens of millions of Americans believe,” “spreading the truth far and wide,” and deny “the purveyors of the ‘big lie’ their “respectable platforms in polite national society.”

In reaction to Lipstadt and Eisen’s conclusions, Lewin asks, “Does contesting a presidential election in a democratic society by resorting to the courts, to elected legislators, to the media and to the public amount to a crime against humanity on the scale of the Holocaust?”

Lewin’s answer: “As one who fled from Poland (as a 3-year-old carried by my parents) and who lost three grandparents in the Holocaust, I would not have believed that any rational human being—much less a collaboration of two distinguished Jews, one of whom has exploited her study of the Holocaust to gain international renown—could stoop so low. By publishing this rant with a blatant political bias, two otherwise distinguished American Jews have engaged in shameful Holocaust denial.”

Jennie Taer

Jennie Taer