'Meet the Press’ Host Rapped for Comparing Sanders Supporters to Nazi 'Brownshirts'

Sanders supporters reacted furiously to Chuck Todd’s quoting of someone who made a comparison with the Nazi-era, noting that the Vermont senator had lost relatives in the Holocaust

Allison Kaplan Sommer
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Students cheer at a campaign rally for Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders at the University of New Hampshire, New Hampshire, February 10, 2020.
Students cheer at a campaign rally for Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders at the University of New Hampshire, New Hampshire, February 10, 2020. Credit: REUTERS/Mike Segar
Allison Kaplan Sommer

Jewish television news anchor Chuck Todd has been harshly criticized by supporters of Bernie Sanders for favorably citing a commentator who called avid online activists for the Jewish U.S. presidential candidate a “brownshirt brigade.”

On the NBC show Todd hosts, “Meet the Press,” the Miami native referred to a column by conservative writer Jonathan Last, who compared the “Bernie Bros” online to the pro-Donald Trump “MAGA brigade.”  

Last wrote about the phenomenon of online “mobs.”

“An army of people (or bots or Russians or whoever) hounding opponents, enforcing discipline, quashing any sort of dissent – and trying to preempt anyone else from taking sides against the Dear Leader,” Last wrote. “Whether or not Bernie is personally coordinating this effort makes absolutely no difference to the facts on the ground. No other candidate has anything like this sort of digital brownshirt brigade," referring to members of the early Nazi militia founded by Hitler in 1921. "I mean, except for Donald Trump,” Last added.

Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders speaks during a campaign event at Whittemore Center Arena, New Hampshire, February 10, 2020.
Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders speaks during a campaign event at Whittemore Center Arena, New Hampshire, February 10, 2020.Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images/AFP

In a panel discussion, Todd echoed Last’s comments, commiserating with the journalists sitting next to him. He said they have all been “on the receiving end of the Bernie online brigade.” His colleagues said Sanders’ behavior was harming the tone of the primary.

Todd asked: “What if we live in a world where having a bullying agro social online army running around popping anyone who sticks their head up is either an important ingredient for, or a critical marker of, success?’”

Another panelist, MSNBC contributor Jason Johnson, said that Sanders’ “online army” attacked its critics “like a pack of dogs.”

Sanders campaigners and supporters reacted furiously to Todd’s quoting of someone who made a comparison with the Nazi-era, noting that the Vermont senator had lost relatives in the Holocaust. They demanded an apology, and the hashtag #FireChuckTodd began trending on Twitter. Sanders’ press secretary tweeted that the comparison expressed “contempt for ordinary people.”

Sanders adviser David Sirota tweeted that “MSNBC seems very frightened that ordinary voters, many of whom use the Internet, may actually get to participate in deciding who wins the presidency.”

Todd’s critics noted that last year he attacked New York's Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for using the metaphor “concentration camps” for detention centers on the southern U.S. border.

Chuck Todd appears on "Meet the Press", Washington, November 17, 2019.
Chuck Todd appears on "Meet the Press", Washington, November 17, 2019. Credit: William B. Plowman/NBC via AP

Todd has been a target of Trump’s Twitter feed; the president has dubbed him “Sleepy Eyes” – a term that some critics charged was an anti-Semitic slur.

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