Former President Barack Obama warned Americans that what happened in Nazi Germany could happen in the United States.
Barack Obama spoke at an event orchestrated by the Economic Club of Chicago at a Hilton hotel on Dec. 5, the Daily Mail reported. During the speech, he appeared to compare Trump’s presidency to the rise of Adolf Hitler.
“We have to tend to this garden of democracy or else things could fall apart quickly,” he told the audience of 1,800 people. “That’s what happened in Germany in the 1930s, which despite the democracy of the Weimar Republic and centuries of high-level cultural and scientific achievements, Adolf Hitler rose to dominate.”
“Sixty million people died,” the former president added. “So you’ve got to pay attention.”
Barack Obama warned the audience about the dangers of complacency, and urged them not to take democracy for granted. He also said that a “nativist mistrust” has “swept the world,” according to a Chicago Business reporter who was at the event, the Daily Mail reports.
The former president also recognized the importance of having good journalists. He said that during his own tenure, he “understood the principle that the free press was vital.”
For some people, Barack Obama’s comments were interpreted as jabs at current President Donald Trump and his “America-first” policy. Game show talk host Chuck Woolery called the comments “despicable,” while others accused him of being “un-American.”
“How awful. Never in our history as a country has a former President said anything about or outrageous lies about the new President,” responded one Twitter user. “This behavior is as disturbing as (Hillary) excuses. Childishness.”
“It’s unfortunate that a former president, who is no doubt an intelligent man, would make that mistake,” added Michael Johns, a tea party founder, according to The Telegraph. “Hitler killed six million innocent civilians; Donald Trump has created over one million jobs and killed absolutely no-one. There is no equivalence.”
“I thought Obama was better than this. To compare his successor to Adolf Hitler… horrible,” Jesse Watters, a political commentator, said on Fox News. “It’s demeaning and beneath him.”
“I understand why he’s angry but that was a horrific comparison,” Watters continued.
While many members of the right felt Barack Obama’s comments were aimed at Donald Trump, the former president did not mention the current president’s name during his speech. He also spoke about the country’s role in international development.
“Things don’t happen internationally if we don’t put our shoulder to the wheel,” he said. “No other country has the experience and bandwidth and ideals … If the U.S. doesn’t do it, it’s not going to happen.”