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Our Opinion: Hitler comparisons minimize horrors of the Holocaust

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Memo to politicians and their flacks: The next time you’re fumbling for a handy historical figure with whom to compare whoever you’re denouncing that day, leave Adolf Hitler’s name off the list.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer and North Carolina state Rep. Larry Pittman, R-Cabarrus, both invoked the infamous Nazi leader in widely panned public statements.

Spicer dropped the “H-bomb” in a Tuesday press conference defending the recent U.S. missile strike on a Syrian air base, castigating embattled President Bashar al-Assad for allegedly deploying sarin gas in an ongoing civil war. Hitler, he said, “didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons.”

While Hitler didn’t use nerve agents in warfare with Allied troops, his concentration camps murdered Jewish prisoners en masse by dispersing hydrogen cyanide in sealed gas chambers.

Spicer was contrite after the obvious omission was pointed out, apologizing profusely and saying he let President Donald Trump down with the thoughtless remark.

Assad is a war criminal whose autocratic reign must come to an end, but Hitler slaughtered an estimated 6 million Jews and more than 12 million others, including Soviet civilians and prisoners of war, Polish and Serb civilians, disabled people, gypsies, gays and Jehovah’s witnesses, according to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Pittman, a third-term legislator who pastors a Presbyterian church, was defending his doomed bill to ban same-sex marriage in a comment thread on his campaign Facebook page when he made a truly unhinged comparison, equating the venerated Abraham Lincoln to the reviled Hitler.

Responding to a comment explaining that a 2015 U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalized gay marriage from coast to coast and arguing opponents should “get over it,” Pittman dredged up World War II and the Civil War.

“And if Hitler had won, should the world just get over it?” he wrote. “Lincoln was the same sort (of) tyrant, and personally responsible for the deaths of over 800,000 Americans in a war that was unnecessary and unconstitutional.”

Consistently ranked No. 1 in historians’ surveys of the best American presidents, Lincoln is widely credited with ending slavery and preserving the Union. Reasonable people can disagree about the Civil War’s complexities. Honest Abe may not have been perfect, but he doesn’t belong in the same sentence with Hitler.

Pittman’s quest to flout the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling on same-sex marriage is dead on arrival in the General Assembly, House Speaker Tim Moore says.

Politicians, pundits and internet commentators are quick to toss Hitler’s name around whenever they want to cast someone as evil and despicable. The careless comparisons need to stop. Equating opponents to Hitler minimizes the Nazi leader’s brutal butchery.

Engaging in such hyperbole is an insult to the millions murdered in the Holocaust and the brave troops who gave their lives in the fight to end Hitler’s tyranny. It’s anti-Semitic, it’s morally bankrupt and it’s objectively false.

Talking heads should remember Hitler as the cold-blooded mass murderer he was. His name is not an all-purpose zinger to be used with reckless abandon.

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