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Oklahoma GOP leader compares vaccine mandates to the Holocaust: ‘Take away the star and add a vaccine passport’

Republican Party chairman John Bennett on Aug. 1 doubled down on his comment comparing vaccine mandates to the persecution of Jewish people. (Video: Oklahoma Republican Party)

On Friday, John Bennett, the chairman of the Oklahoma Republican Party, made a striking comparison on the group’s Facebook page: Private companies requiring employees to get the coronavirus vaccine, he said, are just as bad as the Nazis forcing Jews to wear the yellow Star of David on their clothes.

“Those who don’t KNOW history, are DOOMED to repeat it,” read the caption, below an image of a Star of David patch with “Unvaccinated” written across the top.

The post triggered swift condemnations from top state Republicans and Jewish organizations in Oklahoma. But on Sunday, Bennett doubled down on his comments in a nearly seven-minute video he shared to the party’s Facebook page.

The Nazis “gave [Jews] a star to put on, and they couldn’t go to the grocery store, they couldn’t go out in public, they couldn’t do anything without having that star on their shirt,” Bennett said. “Take away the star and add a vaccine passport.”

Bennett, a Marine Corps veteran who served three combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, was elected chairman of the Oklahoma GOP in April. The former state lawmaker has a history of making hateful comments, specifically about Muslims, according to the Oklahoman.

In a town hall meeting in 2014, Bennett said Islam “is a cancer in our nation that needs to be cut out.” In 2017, he drafted an 18-question survey for Muslims in Oklahoma to fill out before he agreed to meet with them in his legislative office. One of the questions asked was “Do you beat your wife?” A senior imam of the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City told the Oklahoman that Bennett threatened to demolish all the mosques in town.

Bennett is the latest GOP official to equate the persecution of the Jewish people during the Holocaust to mandates related to the coronavirus. In March, Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.) compared vaccine passports to Nazis forcing Jews to wear the yellow Star of David. In June, Washington state Rep. Jim Walsh (R) wore a yellow Star of David during a live stream, stating that it conveyed how “denying people their rights … can lead to terrible outcomes.”

Weeks after Holocaust Museum visit, Rep. Greene makes new Nazi-era comparison in opposing vaccination push

Also in June, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) apologized after she repeatedly compared mask mandates to the Star of David. But she evoked the Holocaust again in July, this time calling those leading a vaccine push from the Biden administration “brownshirts.” The term refers to a paramilitary group that helped Hitler and the Nazis gain power in Germany.

The image of the yellow Star of David patch that Bennett posted on the Oklahoma Republican Party’s Facebook page on Friday included what appeared to be identification numbers and a chip.

The post also said: “Limited access to travel within their State, Province or Territory. The bearer may not fly, cannot enter a pub, restaurant, club or theatre. … WAKE UP PEOPLE — Is this sounding familiar?”

Top Oklahoma GOP lawmakers condemned Bennett. Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell, and Sens. James M. Inhofe and James Lankford, along with other state and federal lawmakers, released a joint statement Friday evening in which they called the Facebook post “irresponsible and wrong,” the Oklahoman reported.

“People should have the liberty to choose if they take the vaccine, but we should never compare the unvaccinated to the victims of the Holocaust,” the statement said.

Shane Jemison, vice chairman of the Oklahoma GOP, also released a statement calling the comparison “offensive to the survivors and victims of the Holocaust, as well as the Jewish people.”

“Equating the possibility of private entities requiring their employees to receive the Covid-19 vaccine to the Holocaust is beyond abhorrent, disgraceful, and a gross misrepresentation of the Republican Party and its values here in Oklahoma and nationally,” Jemison wrote.

Wearing a Star of David, another lawmaker compares coronavirus measures to the Holocaust

Despite the stark disapproval from his colleagues, Bennett defended his claims in the video he posted Sunday afternoon and refused to apologize.

“The Star of David — when they put that on the Jews, they weren’t sending them directly to the gas chambers. They weren’t sending them directly to the [incinerator]. This was leading up to that,” Bennett said.

He warned that vaccine mandates are “totalitarian” and that if Oklahoma Republicans don’t act now, “it’s going to end in the same exact result as we saw when nobody stood up whenever the Jews were told that they had to wear that star.”

Bennett also called the vaccine mandates “communist,” “unconstitutional” and “a direct attack on our liberties.” He criticized his fellow Oklahoma GOP members for speaking out against his post and accused them of not caring about Oklahomans’ “liberty and freedom.”

In a statement released Saturday night, the Jewish Federation of Greater Oklahoma City called Bennett’s comparison “ill-informed and inappropriate.”

“It is sad and ironic that anyone would draw an analogy from the largest recorded genocide in the 20th century with public health attempts to save lives,” the statement said. “Let us each strive to learn from the atrocities of the Holocaust by treating each person with dignity and respect — when we agree and especially when we disagree.”