House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has generally taken a hands-off approach to Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.). But for a fleeting moment in May, it seemed, Greene had gone too far. After she made two comparisons between coronavirus restrictions and Nazi Germany, McCarthy issued an uncharacteristically stern rebuke: “Marjorie is wrong, and her intentional decision to compare the horrors of the Holocaust with wearing masks is appalling.”
A few weeks later, Greene visited the Holocaust Museum and apologized. But just a few weeks after that, she was back to comparing coronavirus vaccination efforts to the Nazis — citing “medical brown shirts” — this time with virtually no pushback from GOP leaders.
The episode was an enlightening one in a party whose leaders have all but given up trying to rein in the extremists in their midst (to the extent they actually want to). Most efforts are cursory; virtually all are for naught. The likes of Greene just keep prodding and provoking, daring them to do something about it — the latest examples being Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert’s likening of a Muslim lawmaker, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), to a terrorist and Greene’s ugly feud with Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.). Greene now says she is the party’s base, not the fringe; Republicans leaders are clearly reckoning with that.
So increasingly, they just let it happen. The result is that the behavior proliferates. And proliferate it has — particularly when it comes to the kind of Nazi-coronavirus comparisons Greene made, which have been mainstreamed more and more in the conservative movement.
Regular Fox News pundit Lara Logan this week became the latest to go down this road, comparing Anthony S. Fauci to Nazi scientist Josef Mengele and his cruel medical experiments on Jews — although her actual argument and logic were difficult to follow. They, too, have been effectively shrugged at by the country’s leading source of news for conservatives.
But Logan and Greene are hardly alone. Here are the growing number of entries in the American right’s increasing comparisons between Nazi Germany and anti-coronavirus efforts:
Greene’s fellow House Republicans
- Boebert called those going door-to-door promoting vaccination “needle Nazis.”
- Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.) said proposals for so-called vaccine passports “smack of 1940s Nazi Germany.” He added: “We must make every effort to keep America from becoming a ‘show your papers society.’ ”
- Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.) compared criticism of anti-lockdown advocates and of Donald Trump’s promotion of hydroxychloroquine to Nazi book burnings.
- Josh Mandel, a leading GOP Senate candidate in Ohio, tweeted of vaccine passports, “We’ve seen this before... Nazi Germany also registered citizens.”
- Trump-backed Wisconsin House candidate Derrick Van Orden said contact tracing was “what the KGB used to do in the Soviet Union and the Stasi used to do in East Germany — that is neighbors spying on neighbors.” He agreed with a podcast host who said “the Nazis did the same thing.”
- Other GOP candidates have likened vaccine passports and mandates to Nazi Germany and even suggested there would be Nazi-style “internment camps” for the unvaccinated.
- Arizona Republican Party Chairwoman Kelli Ward promoted a tweet stating, “What’s the difference between vaccine papers and a yellow star? 82 years.” She responded to the tweet, “Exactly #WakeUpAmerica.”
- The Oklahoma Republican Party posted on Facebook an image of a Star of David that read, “Unvaccinated.” It added: “Those who don’t KNOW history, are DOOMED to repeat it.” In a statement, the state’s GOP governor, two senators and others called it “irresponsible.”
- Numerous GOP politicians in Alaska have made Nazi comparisons. State Rep. Ben Carpenter asked if stickers for those screened for the coronavirus at the state capitol might be “available as a yellow Star of David.” (The Anchorage Daily News also quoted Carpenter arguing that Hitler wasn’t a white supremacist but was merely fearful of a Jewish nation. Carpenter disputed that quote to The Washington Post, but the Daily News stands by the report.) State Rep. David Eastman compared a speech by President Biden on the coronavirus to one given by Adolf Hitler and linked to a website that questions the Holocaust. The Anchorage Daily News reported, “Eastman has previously compared covid-19 vaccination efforts to Nazi medical experiments during the Holocaust. Other members of the Alaska Legislature have done the same, including Reps. Sarah Vance, R-Homer, Christopher Kurka, R-Wasilla, and Ron Gillham, R-Soldotna.” Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson also defended mask-mandate critics who donned the yellow Star of David, saying the use of a star was “a credit” to Jewish people.
- Maine state Rep. Heidi Sampson also compared vaccine requirements to Nazi medical experiments. “We have Josef Mengele and Joseph Goebbels being reincarnated in the state of Maine,” she said, referencing Gov. Janet Mills (D).
- Arizona state Sen. Kelly Townsend shared an image of needles in the shape of a swastika and compared vaccine proponents to Nazis. Arizona state Rep. John Fillmore said mask mandates were “reminiscent of the 1930s in Germany, when people on their own bodies were tattooed.”
- West Virginia state Senate President Craig Blair said of the federal government’s vaccine-or-testing mandate for large businesses, “Frankly, I think this harkens back to Nazi Germany.”
- Kansas state Rep. Brenda Landwehr said mask and vaccine requirements were “racism against the modern-day Jew,” which she equated to those who disagreed with mandates.
- Connecticut state Rep. Anne Dauphinais compared Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont’s speech on vaccine and testing requirements to Hitler and said later: “We know what happened in the ’30s when that started happening to a community of people. They were taken out of their jobs, and they were segregated and discriminated against.”
- Wisconsin state Rep. Shae Sortwell compared a children’s museum requiring proof of vaccination to go without a mask to the Gestapo.
- Washington state Rep. Jim Walsh wore a Star of David and said: “It’s an echo from history. In the current context, we’re all Jews.” He later apologized.
- Pennsylvania state Sen. Cris Dush compared the administration of Gov. Tom Wolf (D) to the Nazi Party. He also apologized.
- Ohio state Sen. Andrew Brenner responded to a state health official’s comments on vaccine passports by promoting a post by his wife that read in part, “With a German accent, in your head say ‘Show me your papers.’ … This actually feels like Hitler’s Germany.” Brenner added: “We won’t allow that to happen in Ohio.” Gov. Mike DeWine (R) called for an apology from Brenner, who stated he didn’t mean to echo his wife’s Nazi comparison.
- Ohio state Rep. Kris Jordan said in a Facebook post: “It’s just a mask, wear it. It’s just a shot, take it. It’s just a boxcar, get in.”
An earlier version of this article misidentified the mayor of Anchorage. The mayor is Dave Bronson. The article has been corrected.
Coronavirus: What you need to know
Vaccines: The CDC recommends that everyone age 5 and older get an updated covid booster shot. New federal data shows adults who received the updated shots cut their risk of being hospitalized with covid-19 by 50 percent. Here’s guidance on when you should get the omicron booster and how vaccine efficacy could be affected by your prior infections.
New covid variant: The XBB.1.5 variant is a highly transmissible descendant of omicron that is now estimated to cause about half of new infections in the country. We answered some frequently asked questions about the bivalent booster shots.
Guidance: CDC guidelines have been confusing — if you get covid, here’s how to tell when you’re no longer contagious. We’ve also created a guide to help you decide when to keep wearing face coverings.
Where do things stand? See the latest coronavirus numbers in the U.S. and across the world. In the U.S., pandemic trends have shifted and now White people are more likely to die from covid than Black people. Nearly nine out of 10 covid deaths are people over the age 65.
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