A Kansas paper, The Anderson County Review, whose publisher is a county Republican politician, posted a cartoon on its Facebook page drawing similarities between the state governor’s order to wear face masks in public and the murder of Jews by Nazis during World War Two.
The cartoon sports governor Laura Kelly donning a mask with the Star of David on it, and with people in the background being herded into a train. "Lockdown Laura says: Put on your mask ... and step on to the cattle car", the caption reads.
The newspaper posted the cartoon on Friday, the day Kelly’s mask order took effect, drawing criticism primarily from Republicans arguing the order infringes upon personal freedoms.
The denouncement came despite individual Kansas counties having the right to opt out of statewide regulations, which Anderson county, a conservative swath of eastern Kansas, did straight away, allowing residents to decide on anti-coronavirus protective measures for themselves.
The comparison between the order and the Holocaust drew the ire of quite a few, with Kelly, who is Catholic, calling the publisher to pull down the cartoon:
"Mr [Dane] Hicks’ decision to publish anti-Semitic imagery is deeply offensive and he should remove it immediately".
Kansas Senate minority leader, Democrat Anthony Hensley, in turn, dubbed the cartoon "appalling" and "disgusting" stating that anyone connected to its posting should be fired.
Separately, Rabbi Moti Rieber, executive director of Kansas Interfaith Action, said most if not all comparisons of current coronavirus-related developments to the Holocaust are "odious" and charged it was "incoherent" to equate the masks order, which is designed to save lives, with mass murder.
He also said that putting the Star of David on Kelly’s mask was deeply anti-Semitic because it could be interpreted as though "nefarious Jews" are behind her actions.
"This thing is like the trifecta of garbage", Rieber said, calling on Republican leaders to denounce the cartoon and publisher Hicks, Anderson County’s Republican Party chairman.
The Kansas governor introduced her face mask order in response to a serious spike in confirmed coronavirus cases across the state in recent weeks.
Kansas’s total soared to nearly 16,000 as of Friday, when the Midwestern state finished its worst two-week rise since the start of the global COVID pandemic. The state has to date reported 277 coronavirus-related deaths.