Former President Donald Trump’s 2024 campaign defended his use of the word “vermin” to describe his political opponents, who he accused of being communists, Marxists, fascists, and radical left thugs. The controversial speech, which he delivered at a rally in Florida on November 12, 2023, has sparked outrage and fear among historians and critics, who said that Trump’s language echoed that of authoritarian dictators like Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini, who dehumanized their enemies and instilled fear in their followers.
“We will root out the vermin that have infested our country. We will get rid of them. We will purge them from our society. They are not Americans. They are traitors. They are enemies of the people.” Trump said to the cheering crowd, as he claimed that he won the 2020 election and that the current administration was illegitimate and corrupt.
Historians were quick to point out the similarities between Trump’s rhetoric and that of fascist leaders, who used similar terms to justify their atrocities and genocide. “To call your opponent ‘vermin,’ to dehumanize them, is to not only open the door but to walk through the door toward the most ghastly kinds of crimes，” Jon Meacham, a presidential historian, said on MSNBC.
“On a weekend when most Americans were honoring our nation’s heroes, Donald Trump parroted the autocratic language of Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini – two dictators many U.S. veterans gave their lives fighting,” Biden-Harris spokesperson Ammar Moussa said in a statement.
Trump’s campaign spokesman, Jason Miller, dismissed the criticism as coming from “snowflakes” who suffer from “Trump Derangement Syndrome” and vowed to “crush their existence” when Trump returns to the White House in 2024. “The president is speaking metaphorically. He is not literally calling for violence. He is simply expressing his frustration with the radical left agenda that is destroying our country. The real vermin are the snowflakes who can’t handle the truth and suffer from Trump Derangement Syndrome. We will crush their existence when we take back the White House in 2024.” Miller said in a statement.
The White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, condemned Trump’s speech as “inciting his base to violence again” and “undermining our institutions and our values”.
Trump’s rhetoric has been linked to the January 6, 2021 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, where his supporters stormed the building and tried to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s victory. Trump was impeached for a second time for his role in inciting the violence, but was acquitted by the Senate. He is currently facing several lawsuits and criminal investigations related to his actions before and after the election.
– Trump Campaign Doubles Down: It’s Totally Fine That He Called His Enemies ‘Vermin’, Yahoo News, November 13, 2023
– Trump compares political opponents to ‘vermin’ who he will ‘root out,’ alarming historians, ABC News, November 13, 2023
– Trump campaign defends “vermin” speech amid comparisons to fascist leaders, Axios, November 13, 2023