(WASHINGTON) -- Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich's comments comparing Muslims to Nazis at the GOP debate Monday night have sparked a firestorm in the blogosphere, where liberals, and even some conservatives, have pounced on the former House speaker for what they view as excessive fear mongering.
"Of course Newt is taking it too far. He is appealing to the basest instincts of a very small minority of folks," said Matthew Dowd, ABC News consultant who served as chief strategist on George W. Bush's 2004 re-election team. "Either he is doing this for political purposes to distract people from a campaign in disarray, which is bad, or he actually believes it, which is scary."
At the New Hampshire debate Monday night, Gingrich responded to questions about loyalty tests for administration officials, saying, "The Pakistani who emigrated to the U.S., became a citizen, built a car bomb which luckily failed to go off in Times Square, was asked by the federal judge, how could he have done that when he signed and when he swore an oath to the United States. And he looked at the judge and said, 'You're my enemy. I lied.'"
"Now, I just want to go out on a limb here. I'm in favor of saying to people, if you're not prepared to be loyal to the United States, you will not serve in my administration, period," Gingrich added to applause.
But Gingrich didn't stop there, despite an attempt by moderators to interject. He compared hiring Muslims to how Americans dealt with Nazis in the 1940s.
"We did this in dealing with the Nazis. We did this in dealing with the Communists. And it was controversial both times and both times we discovered after a while, you know, there are some genuinely bad people who would like to infiltrate our country. And we have got to have the guts to stand up and say, 'No,'" he concluded.
Many people have chastised Gingrich, whose senior aides resigned en masse last week, for invoking 1950s-era McCarthyism, a time during which free speech came under assault amid a heightened threat of Communism. Muslim groups expressed outrage, saying Gingrich was merely exploiting Muslims for personal and political gain.
"It's really reprehensible when you have a mainstream presidential candidate equate Muslims with Nazis and communists," said Ibrahim Hooper, communications director at Council on American-Islamic Relations. "It is what we've come to expect from the right wing of the political faction."
Although he might have created a firestorm, this isn't the first time Gingrich has made such a comparison and, to many, his most recent comments are anything but surprising.
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