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Tennessee Republican praises Hitler for leading a 'life that got him in the history books'

Tennessee state Sen. Frank Niceley used the false claim that ‘Hitler decided to live on the streets for a while’ as an illustration of someone who turned his life around after homelessness.

By Emily Singer - April 14, 2022
Frank Niceley

A Tennessee Republican state senator on Wednesday cited Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler as a positive example of someone who was able to make a life for himself after experiencing homelessness.

Sen. Frank Niceley used the example to voice his support for a Tennessee Senate bill that would criminalize encampments or soliciting on public property, making it a misdemeanor to camp, for example, under highways or bridges. The bill would provide for a $50 fine and a sentence of 20-40 hours of community service.

“I wanna give you a little history lesson on homelessness,” Niceley said in a speech on the Senate floor in support of the legislation. “In 1910, Hitler decided to live on the streets for a while. So for two years, Hitler lived on the streets and practiced his oratory and his body language and how to connect with the masses and then went on to lead a life that got him in the history books. So a lot of these people, it’s not a dead end. They can come out of this, these homeless camps, and have a productive life … or in Hitler’s case a very unproductive life. I support this bill.”

Republican lawmakers seem to make a habit of praising Hitler, whose regime engaged in systematic genocide that killed 6 million Jews and millions of political prisoners, disabled people, and members of other marginalized groups.

Rep. Mary Miller (R-IL) said at a pro-Donald Trump rally the day before the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, “Hitler was right on one thing. He said, ‘Whoever has the youth has the future.'” She later apologized.

In January, a Republican state senator from Indiana came under fire when he said, “Marxism, Nazism, fascism … I have no problem with the education system providing instruction on the existence of those ‘isms.’ I believe that we’ve gone too far when we take a position. … We need to be impartial.” The lawmaker, GOP state Sen. Scott Baldwin, later tried to clean up his remarks by saying, “I believe that kids should learn about these horrible events in history so that we don’t experience them again in humanity.”

Tennessee Democrats condemned Niceley’s comments.

“TN Senator says Hitler made something of himself after being homeless & you can too. I’m going to have to apologize to the universe for this guy,” Tennessee state Rep. Gloria Johnson tweeted, adding that “not a single day passes without TN GOP embarrassing the hell out of our state.”

S.B. 1610, the bill criminalizing encampments, ultimately passed in the Tennessee Senate by a vote of 22-10, and now heads to GOP Gov. Bill Lee’s desk for signature.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

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