Jewish Group Demands MSNBC's Chris Matthews Apologize for Comparing Bernie Sanders' Victory to Nazi Invasion

IfNotNow, an American Jewish progressive activist group, called on MSNBC host Chris Matthews to apologize for comparing Senator Bernie Sanders' Nevada caucuses victory to the Nazi invasion of France in 1940.

As Nevada caucuses results began rolling in on Saturday night, Matthews, the host of Hardball, criticized Sanders' early lead, claiming that Republicans would drop opposition research on the progressive candidate that would "kill him" if he won the 2020 Democratic nomination.

He then compared the senator's inevitable win to Hitler's invasion of France: "I was reading last night about the fall of France in the summer of 1940 and the general, Reynaud, calls up Churchill and says, 'It's over.' And Churchill says, 'How can that be? You've got the greatest army in Europe. How can it be over?' He said, 'It's over.'"

Sanders won the caucuses with 47 percent of the vote, reported the Associated Press, solidifying his front-runner status in the Democratic field.

"The second time in as many weeks that an MSNBC commentator has used Nazi comparisons when talking about @BernieSanders, a Jewish candidate with family that was murdered in the Holocaust," IfNotNow tweeted on Saturday, following Matthew's remarks. "We demand an apology from @HardballChris—and we're still waiting for @chucktodd's apology."

In a statement to Newsweek, Yonah Lieberman, IfNotNow's communications director, called Matthew's comments "incredibly offensive."

"Comparing Bernie's progressive vision, where everyone has the right to healthcare, education, and a good paying job to the rise of fascism and impending Holocaust in Europe is incredibly offensive," Lieberman said. "It's even worse when you factor in the fact that Bernie has family members that were killed in the Holocaust. And it's even worse than that when you know that there is a growing white nationalist movement in America right now.

"There are plenty of other analogies Matthews could have made that did not invoke the Nazi campaign to eradicate the Jewish people," he added.

The second time in as many weeks that an MSNBC commentator has used Nazi comparisons when talking about @BernieSanders, a Jewish candidate with family that was murdered in the Holocaust.

We demand an apology from @HardballChris — and we’re still waiting for @chucktodd’s apology.

— IfNotNow🔥 (@IfNotNowOrg) February 22, 2020

Newsweek reached out to NBC for comment, but did not receive a response in time for publication.

Matthews' remarks quickly drew considerable backlash online, with rights groups, journalists and supporters of the senator pointing out that Sanders, who is Jewish, lost family members during the Holocaust.

"Chris Mathews has been generous to me on a number of occasions, even blurbing my book. However, his constant references to political violence and today Nazism to describe Bernie Sanders campaign is beyond the pale. @HardballChris must resign or be fired from@MSNBC," filmmaker Arun Chaudhary wrote.

"@HardballChris just compared Bernie Sanders and his movement to Hitler and the Nazis on national television," journalist Walker Bragman added. "Sanders, who is Jewish and lost family in the Holocaust, is on track to be the nation's first Jewish president. Enough with this. Matthews should not be on the air."

Bernie Sanders
Chris Matthews of MSNBC waits to go on the air inside the spin room at Bally's Las Vegas Hotel & Casino after the Democratic presidential primary debate on February 19, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Ethan Miller/Getty

Matthews' comments were not the first time an MSNBC host sparked backlash this month over remarks said about the Sanders campaign. During a segment ahead of the New Hampshire primary, anchor Chuck Todd drew Twitter fire for quoting a column that described Sanders' supporters as a "digital brownshirt brigade."

After he quoted an article by conservative outlet The Bulwark comparing Sanders' supporters to Nazi paramilitaries, the hashtag #FireChuckTodd began trending on Twitter, with some supporters of the candidate calling the segment "indefensible."

This article has been updated to include additional comment from IfNotNow.