Stein described Ocasio-Cortez as a “dynamic, lively character” who gives a message of hope and did not say during the interview what specific promises or policy proposals of hers had prompted him to compare her to the Soviet leader, the Nazi dictator and the Chinese Communist Party chairman.
Ocasio-Cortez’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
Stein’s comparison appears to have been prompted by recent comments the 29-year-old made during a Martin Luther King Jr. Day event in New York City. Ocasio-Cortez said it’s “wrong” for billionaires to coexist with “parts of Alabama where people are still getting ringworm because they don’t have access to public health,” according to CNBC.
“Are we comfortable with a society where someone can have a helipad while [New York City] is experiencing the highest rates of people experiencing homelessness since the Great Depression?” she said, referring to Amazon’s proposal to build helipads at the company’s two new headquarters in New York and Virginia. (Amazon founder Jeffrey P. Bezos owns The Washington Post.)
Stein defended the wealthy, saying, “There’s nothing wrong in a society that allows billionaires to exist as long as the billionaires don’t lock you up in prison and put you in a firing squad.”
He condemned socialist countries and described capitalism, characterized by private and corporate ownership of capital goods, as “an incredibly good system."
“The promise of just saying to people, 'Do what you can within the law to make your life better and your family’s life better, ' that system works extremely well. … Making money is one of the most harmless things there is to do in the whole world, and that’s what society is about,” Stein said.
Ocasio-Cortez, a self-described democratic socialist, had floated the idea of raising the marginal tax rate to 70 percent for those making more than $10 million to address the country’s wealth disparity. The maximum marginal tax rate is 37 percent for individuals making more than $510,300 and for married couples making more than $612,350.
She had also backed a “Green New Deal” to get the country off fossil fuels by 2030, a proposal that would divide the Democratic establishment and the party’s energized left wing on how they address climate change.
Stein’s comments were met with pushback and some mockery on Twitter.
This isn’t the first time that Stein, a speechwriter for former president Richard Nixon, compared liberal political figures to dictators such as Hitler.
Stein, who is Jewish, once compared a speech by then-presidential candidate Barack Obama to a Hitler rally. In 2008, when Obama was set to deliver a speech accepting the Democratic presidential nomination, Stein said he did not like the idea of the then-senator speaking “in front of 75,000 wildly cheering people” because “that’s not the way we do things” in the United States.
“Seventy-five thousand people at an outdoor sports palace, well, that’s something the führer would have done,” Stein said. “And I think whoever is advising Senator Obama to do this is bringing up all kinds of very unfortunate images from the past.”