Media Members Defend Ocasio-Cortez's 'Concentration Camp' Remarks

'MSNBC fans knew exactly what Ocasio-Cortez meant'

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez / Getty Images
June 18, 2019

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's (D., N.Y.) claim the Trump administration was running "concentration camps" on the southern border was defended by several historians and members of the press on Twitter.

Ocasio-Cortez told viewers during an Instagram Live session on Monday that Trump was running an "authoritarian and fascist presidency" and said the detention system for illegal immigrants was akin to concentration camps, adding "never again," a clear Holocaust reference.

"The fact that concentration camps are now an institutionalized practice in the home of the free is extraordinarily disturbing, and we need to do something about it," Ocasio-Cortez told her viewers on Instagram.

In response to critics like Rep. Liz Cheney (R., Wyo.), who said her remarks were offensive to Jews who survived the Holocaust, Ocasio-Cortez took to Twitter to criticize "shrieking Republicans" who couldn't differentiate between concentration camps and "death camps."

Coming to Ocasio-Cortez's aid were several reporters and historians, including Washington Post opinion writer Radley Balko calling her usage of the term "accurate" and Princeton professor Kevin Kruse saying that concentration camps like Dachau set the stage for later death camps like Auschwitz.

Ocasio-Cortez retweeted Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg making an explicit Nazi comparison, writing, "Time to learn the difference between concentration camps and death ('extermination') camps. Germany started with concentration camps in 1933. Death camps started in 1941. Never again is now."

Washington Post reporter Dave Weigel suggested Ocasio-Cortez wasn't making a Holocaust comaprison, writing, "Not going any deeper into Concentration Camp Twitter today, but the term originated to describe British tactics in the Boer War, and was later applied to Nazi tactics. Problem with saying "internment camp" instead is that you remind people that Americans had them before."

Senior Slate editor Josh Keating shared an earlier article explaining that "concentration camp" didn't necessarily mean "Auschwitz."

MSNBC host Chris Hayes made a similar argument, writing, "If you spend a few minutes learning some actual history, you will find out that concentration camps are different from death camps and have a history that both predates and extends far past the Nazis."

Writing in his daily Reliable Sources newsletter, CNN media correspondent Brian Stelter said the episode was an example of the American political divide but only MSNBC viewers were correct in their defense of Ocasio-Cortez.

"Republican lawmakers and Fox News anchors were outraged," Stelter wrote. "Fox fans, in general, were disgusted while MSNBC fans knew exactly what Ocasio-Cortez meant. Our American divide in action."

The Twitter account for the Auschwitz Museum tweeted at Hayes and several others to follow their account where every day "we commemorate and educate about the tragic human history" of the infamous camp.

UPDATE: Wednesday, 8:40 A.M.: This article was updated with Stelter's remarks in his newsletter.