UPDATE: The House Democrat from Tennessee criticized for evoking Nazi propagandist Josef Goebbels in describing the GOP's stance on health reform says he "regrets" the words but insists he "never called the Republicans Nazis."

"While I regret that anything I said has created an opportunity to distract from the debate about health care for 32 million Americans, I want to be clear that I never called Republicans Nazis," Rep. Steve Cohen said in a statement released Thursday. "Instead, the reference I made was to the greatest propaganda master of all time."

"My comments were not directed toward any group or people but at the false message and, specifically, the method by which is has been delivered," Cohen added.


A Jewish Democratic group denounced a progressive congressman for wading into something that's all too common in US politics: frivolous Nazi comparisons.

"They say it's a government takeover of health care, a big lie just like [Nazi propagandist Joseph] Goebbels," Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) said on the House floor Wednesday. "..."The Germans said enough about the Jews and people believed it – believed it and you have the Holocaust."

The National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) took Cohen to task for his remarks.

"As we have said repeatedly, invoking the Holocaust to make a political point is never acceptable—on either side of the aisle," wrote David Streeter of the NJDC on the group's website. "Cohen’s comments and similar comments made by others are not helpful as our leaders and citizens conduct a joint effort to advance civility in our political discourse. We implore Cohen and all our leaders to choose their words carefully as we move forward."

In the comments section, Cohen appears to have responded: "I must disagree with the NJDC about this. I hope that the entire speech will be viewed, not just the clip taken out of context... On the House floor last night, I was addressing the danger of letting lies stand.  While I did refer to Goebbels’ campaign of lies, I never compared the Republicans to Nazis.  Rather, I warned against the real danger in letting lies stands."

And even though the NJDC didn't hesitate to reprimand one of their own, it declined to draw a false equivalence between Nazi comparisons on the left and right.

"Even though Cohen is a leading progressive figure, the vast preponderance of abusive Holocaust rhetoric still comes from the right-wing," the group's statement read. "We hope that if there are future uses of abusive Holocaust rhetoric from either side of the aisle that political leaders will stand up and condemn those statements and reiterate calls for civility."

The relentlessly bitter debate over the Patient Protection And Affordable Care Act took an important step Wednesday when the Republican-led House voted 245-189 to repeal the sweeping overhaul enacted last March.

ABC’s Jonathan Karl posited that “[p]olitical rhetoric in Congress doesn’t get much nastier” the Cohen’s remarks. But, far from apologizing, the Tennessee Democrat defended himself in an interview with the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent.

Republicans have characterized the bill as everything from a "job-killer" to the downfall of freedom and onset of tyranny in America. The Associated Press found the GOP's claim that the law would cost 650,000 jobs to be false.

This video is from ABC News, uploaded Jan. 19, 2011.