Former president Donald Trump has faced backlash from the White House, President Biden’s 2024 campaign, and several prominent Republicans for his recent comments referring to his political opponents as “vermin” and labeling them more dangerous than foreign enemies. Historians have noted that this language echoes that of authoritarian leaders. During a campaign speech in Claremont, N.H., and in a post on social media, Trump falsely claimed that the 2020 election was stolen and pledged to root out individuals he described as “communists, Marxists, fascists, and radical left thugs” who he claimed were destroying America.
The White House spokesman, Andrew Bates, declined to comment directly on the 2024 campaign but issued a statement condemning the use of such divisive language. He emphasized that the founders of the United States would find these terms unrecognizable and highlighted the potential harm caused to American veterans who fought during the 1940s. Historian Ruth Ben-Ghiat drew attention to the fact that calling people “vermin” was effectively used by Hitler and Mussolini to dehumanize individuals and incite violence.
President Biden’s reelection campaign also weighed in on the matter, sharing on social media a clip of CNN host Dana Bash and her own acknowledgment that the term “vermin” was historically used by Hitler and Mussolini to dehumanize people and encourage their followers to attack opponents.
Steven Cheung, a spokesman for Trump’s campaign, defended the former president’s remarks, dismissing critics as suffering from “Trump Derangement Syndrome.” He asserted that their existence would be crushed upon Trump’s return to the White House. In addition to his comments about political opponents, Trump also referred to himself as a “very proud election denier” and downplayed the threat posed by external forces, emphasizing the need for strong leadership.
Trump’s remarks have drawn condemnation from historians and politicians across the political spectrum. Former Republican congresswoman Liz Cheney, who played a key role in investigating the January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol and efforts to overturn the election results, criticized Republicans who failed to denounce Trump’s comments. She accused them of appeasing a dangerous man and shared video footage of Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna McDaniel refusing to comment on Trump’s remarks. Cheney suggested that McDaniel’s refusal to condemn Trump implies collaboration.
Cheney’s comments were met with a response from RNC spokesman Anna Kelly, who accused her of parroting DNC talking points. Meanwhile, former RNC chairman Michael Steele took to social media to highlight the fascist undertones in Trump’s references to his enemies as “vermin” and the threat posed by him. Steele emphasized that it is conservatives who have testified against Trump, not the left, making him “the threat from within.”