Appearing on "The Rachel Maddow Show," former U.S. Ambassador to Russia and Stanford University Professor Michael McFaul highlighted "interesting" remarks a commentator made on Ukrainian television about "how horrific" the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine has been.
"One of the Russian journalists said, 'You know, there's one difference between Hitler when he was coming in and Putin. Hitler didn't kill ethnic Germans. He didn't kill German-speaking people," McFaul said to fill-in host Ali Velshi on Friday.
"I think people need to remember that we're talking about cities like Kharkiv and Mariupol and Kyiv, there are large populations there, you know, up to a third and sometimes as much to a half that are Russian speakers and are ethnic Russians. And yet Putin doesn't seem to care about that. He slaughters the very people he said he has come to liberate," McFaul said.
The comments were then shared by the Maddow Blog, tweeting, "One difference between Putin and Hitler is that Hitler didn't kill ethnic Germans, German-speaking people. Putin slaughters the very people he said he has come to liberate."
The clip went viral with critics taking McFaul to the woodshed for his fact-challenged commentary.
‘Insanely false claim’
"Hitler ‘didn’t kill German-speaking people’ is an insanely false claim since many of the Jews murdered in the Holocaust spoke German," Washington Examiner reporter Jerry Dunleavy reacted, adding, "Pro-Tip: You don’t have to try to play weird word games to try to make Putin seem worse than Hitler — Putin is plenty bad on the objective facts."
"I promise you, no matter what, you don’t have to favorably compare Hitler to current foreign leaders," political commentator Drew Holden wrote.
"Maybe just delete this one," progressive journalist Walker Bragman suggested to the Maddow Blog.
"'Ethnic Germans' is a really weird way to get around the wholesale murder of German Jews," Tablet Magazine's Noam Blum tweeted.
"you do not, I repeat NOT, have to hand it to Hitler," podcast host Jesse Hawken wrote.
Blinken/Nuland ‘desperate campaign’
"McFail’s rant absolving Hitler to own Putin is not just a window into the mentality of the ex-US ambassador to Moscow who helped instigate the new Cold War, but of the Blinken/Nuland State Department that is driving the desperate campaign to extend and escalate the war," The Grayzone News editor Max Blumenthal tweeted.
Blumentahl was referring to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland.
"we're rehabbing Hitler now i guess. that's troubling," "The Insurgents" podcast host Rob Rousseau reacted.
‘Relative moral superiority of … Hitler’
"Okay, I'm going to express this calmly. It's wrong to suggest that German Jews, whose families had lived in Germanic lands for centuries, weren't ethnic Germans. Also Hitler killed German communists, German Roma, German trade unionists, German handicapped, German queers, etc," The Nation columnist Jeet Heer corrected McFaul.
"This guy was ambassador to Russia. The same position held by John Quincy Adams," American Enterprise Institute's Jay Cost pointed out.
"MSNBC arguing the relative moral superiority of... Hitler. STOP IT," National Review contributor Pradheep J. Shanker exclaimed.
McFaul was even called out by the Auschwitz Memorial, which replied, "On a factual note: Hitler did kill ethnic Germans & German-speaking people: those who opposed the Nazi regime, those who resisted, those who did not fit into the 'Weltanschauung'. He ordered the murder of people with different disabilities & finally the murder of German Jewry."
On Saturday, McFaul walked back his comments.
"I slipped late last night and violated an unwritten taboo-- never compare Hitler with anyone. I agree. He was incomparably evil. I won't do it again," McFaul tweeted. "To those who wrote to me to explain that Hitler committed the same atrocities against ethnic Germans that Putin is committing against ethnic Russians today in Mariupol and Kharkiv, please suggested to me the best scholarly readings on this history. Im eager to learn."
However, he did go on to defend himself in combative exchanges with other Twitter users, telling one, "Of course, I know about the millions of German-speakers and people with German nationality that Hitler killed. I genuinely want to learn more about the ethnic German civilians living outside of Germany that Hitler consciously slaughtered. I don't know that history," also writing, "Yes, I know the difference between ethnic identities and state nationalities. But thanks all for the reminders."
McFaul did not immediately respond to Fox News' request for comment.
Additionally, the Maddow Blog took down the clip it shared and replaced it with a correction reading, "The historical record is clear. Hitler killed millions of Germans. We tweeted out part of an inaccurate statement made last night by former Ambassador Michael McFaul without attribution, and we regret doing so. We have since removed the tweet."