Facebook Twitter Tumblr Close Skip to main content
A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Nazi Symbols at Town Halls: The Real Story

Recent comments by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that swastikas and other Nazi imagery had been appearing at lawmakers’  town hall meetings on health care set off furious rounds of tweeting and blogging by outraged conservatives.

The episode began when the California Democrat was asked by a reporter whether she thought there was "legitimate grassroots opposition" at the meetings to congressional health care overhaul plans. She replied:

 Pelosi: I think they are Astroturf. You be the judge … carrying swastikas and symbols like that to a town meeting on health care.

Pelosi’s remarks infuriated her opposition. Rush Limbaugh said on his Aug. 6 radio show that Pelosi was "unraveling" and had said overhaul opponents "are now wearing swastikas. She’s basically saying that we are Nazis." 

Among the more civil reactions on one blog were these: "This woman is losing it";  "No one else has seen these swastikas"; and "Pelosi has no evidence whatsoever" to back up her claim. 

Now there is evidence. After doing some investigating to authenticate images posted on blog sites, CNN addressed the controversy on Friday. Host Rick Sanchez showed a photo of a woman outside a Fort Collins, Colo., meeting with a sign that featured a swastika with a slash through it. Another photo from Denver is of a child in a stroller who is obscured by a sign bearing the words "No to Fascism"; it also bears a slashed-through swastika.


There’s another photo of a doctored image of Obama with a Hitler mustache, and one of a sign that uses the symbol associated with Hitler’s SS troops. Here’s the transcript:

Sanchez, Aug. 7: … Speaker Pelosi was correct. This sign, held aloft by a woman at a health care event in Fort Collins, Colorado, does in fact show the swastika. To be clear, the Swastika has a strike running through it as if to say, No Nazis.

Still, it’s obviously unsettling. And now we’re finding out there may be a pattern here. Look at this. Seen Thursday outside a health care forum in Romulus, Michigan. A photo of the president defaced by a Hitler mustache. Now this, see that sign, depicts Texas Democrat Lloyd Doggett as the devil, but to the left of that sign and you see the symbol of the murderous Nazi SS on a sign that says something to the effect Stop Socialism. You see another view of that same sign and notice – we can see – the man who’s holding it up – you discover he’s holding a little girl on his shoulders as he’s holding that sign.

One more to follow, look at this. This from yesterday. A child, Denver, Colorado. Enough said?

Pelosi did not actually accuse opponents of being neo-Nazis; that’s just the way Limbaugh and others chose to interpret her phrase, "carrying swastikas and symbols like that." It is clear from the images in hand that the anti-Obama protesters were the ones accusing others of Nazi-like tendencies. And Pelosi turns out to be right.