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MSNBC host faces backlash over reference to Sanders' 'digital brownshirt brigade'

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks during the McIntyre-Shaheen 100 Club Dinner, Saturday, Feb. 8, 2020, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

MSNBC host Chuck Todd is facing the fury of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ online supporters after quoting a column on the air Monday that described them as a “digital brownshirt brigade.”

“#FireChuckTodd” was trending on Twitter overnight as aides and supporters of the Jewish presidential candidate pushed back against the inference that they are essentially Nazis.

During a panel discussion of the impending New Hampshire primary, the “Meet the Press” host cited a column by Jonathan Last on conservative news site The Bulwark that likened Sanders’ social media army to President Donald Trump’s.

“No other candidate has anything like this sort of digital brownshirt brigade. I mean, except for Donald Trump,” Last wrote. “The question no one is asking is this: What if you can’t win the presidency without an online mob?”

Sanders critics have long complained about his passionate and at times belligerent online following, often deriding them as “Bernie bros,” but Todd seemed to be trying to make a point that “a bullying agro social online army” could be a critical factor in success in modern elections.

“I know everybody’s freaking out about this, but you saw the MAGA rally that’s preparing around here,” Todd said after reading from Last’s column. “There are people coming from three or four states. That’s real and this is like Bernie.”

Todd’s comments pointed to concerns many Democrats have voiced about how Sanders’ large online base will integrate with the rest of the party if he is the nominee and how they will react if he is not. Still, the Nazi imagery drew a fierce backlash, especially given that members of Sanders’ family died in the Holocaust.

"’Digital brown shirt brigade.’ That's how our Jewish candidate's supporters are being described on the MSM,” Sanders campaign press secretary Briahna Joy Gray responded on Twitter. “The contempt shown for ordinary people is really something.”

Some Sanders supporters have demanded Todd apologize, while others have gone further and suggested he should resign or be removed by NBC.

"As a fellow Jew who's aware half of Bernie's family was murdered in the Holocuast, he knows better," Florida Democratic congressional candidate Jen Perelman wrote on Twitter. "We're not Nazis. God, the MSM makes me sick and we're just getting started."

Neither Todd nor NBC News has directly responded to the criticism or the calls for him to be fired.