The leader of the Oklahoma GOP has refused to apologize for posting an offensive picture on the Oklahoma GOP’s official social media. John Bennett, the Oklahoma Republican Party Chairman, claimed responsibility for sharing social media content comparing people who choose not to get vaccinated with Jews who refused to wear a gold star during the Holocaust.
The post, ill-conceived as a warning that those who choose not to get vaccinated for COVID-19 will soon be unable to participate in daily life, was immediately repudiated for it’s offensive and tone-deaf nature. Several prominent leaders in the Oklahoma GOP later apologized in a follow-up social media post.
However, the damage had already been done. Addressing Lieutenant Governor Matt Pinell, the post was a “call to action” for “patriots” to continue refusing a vaccination that provides protection against a virus that has killed over 600,000 Americans and millions worldwide.
Leadership in limbo
Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt, meanwhile, has repeatedly stressed he will not make any mask or vaccine mandates, nor declare a state of emergency despite the growing cases of COVID-19 in Oklahoma. Friday’s rolling 7-day average of new cases was above 1350 per day, with this week’s case load expected to increase.
Governor Stitt, who is currently out of the country on a taxpayer-funded trip, has previously espoused “personal responsibility” as the way Oklahomans can address growing concerns about hospital bed availability and schools opening this month. Governor Stitt received the Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine in March.
The OKGOP’s post is not the first time that the COVID-19 pandemic has been used as an analogy to the Holocaust, or to address the erroneous notion that those who choose not to get vaccinated are victims of persecution.
Leaders condemn statement
“It’s sad and ironic that anyone would draw an analogy from one of the largest recorded genocide in the 20th century with public health attempts to save lives,” said Roberta Clark, the executive director of the Jewish Federation of Greater Oklahoma City. “To take [the yellow Star of David] as it was used in the Holocaust to persecute and kill Jews and use it because of a disagreement on public health is so offensive,” said Clark.
“This is not like sending people to the gas chambers or to be burned alive.”
Even leaders within the Oklahoma GOP were shocked by the disgusting comparison. “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,” wrote OKGOP vice-chair Shane Jemison in a statement.
The Oklahoma GOP chairman, John Bennett, however, has doubled down on his controversial comments. In a six-minute pre-recorded statement released Sunday, he refused to apologize, stating, “If we don’t do something 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.”
To schedule your COVID-19 vaccine, go to the Vaccinate Oklahoma.