A member of the Washington House of Representatives is apologizing after wearing a yellow Star of David to protest COVID-19 restrictions, saying it was a ‘dumb idea.’
After the speech, he explained his rationale on Facebook, saying ‘in the current context, we’re all Jews.’
On Saturday, Republican Rep. Jim Walsh was giving a speech in Lacey, where he was wearing a pink shirt adorned with the Star of David.
Yellow stars were used to identify, isolate and humiliate Jewish people in Nazi-occupied countries during the 1930s and 1940s.
Many Jewish organizations consider the comparison between vaccination mandates and the Holocaust to be offensive.
During his speech, Walsh urged the approximately 100 people in attendance at the gym to resist government overreach.
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On Saturday, Republican Rep. Jim Walsh was giving a speech in Lacey, where he was wearing a pink shirt adorned with the Star of David
In comments on a Facebook post of the speech, Walsh called it ‘an echo from history’ and relayed a false story about how all Danes wore yellow stars during WWII
Yellow stars were used to identify, isolate and humiliate Jewish people in Nazi-occupied countries during the 1930s and 1940s
‘What we have lost in the last two generations is that notion of individual liberty, of privacy, of the right to own property, of the right to your conscience, and your right to protect yourself,’ Walsh says in his speech.
Walsh doesn’t appear to reference Hitler or Nazis or the Holocaust in his speech, but he did defend his choice of attire in a comment on the Facebook Live video.
‘It’s an echo from history,’ Walsh wrote. ‘In the current context, we’re all Jews.’
The state representative went on to claim in an interview on Tuesday that he was given the Star of David by an attendee of the church gym gathering. He didn’t explicitly apologize during that interview.
He also said that most people in attendance were wearing one and that they were ‘deeply concerned about vaccine passports and vaccine segregation,’ despite no vaccine mandate being in place in Washington.
The state representative went on to claim in an interview on Tuesday that he was given the Star of David by an attendee of the church gym gathering. He didn’t apologize during that interview
Michelle Le, a leader of Washingtonians for Change – which arranged Walsh’s speaking event – claimed that the star ‘was not my idea’ and said one attendee wanted to wear it to show solidarity with Israel.
Walsh compared wearing the star to a false story about Danish people wearing them during the Nazi occupation to prevent Jews from being singled out.
He made the same point in the Facebook comments, where a follow-up comment called him out for the false story.
Walsh, who has been a member of the state House of Representatives since 2016, failed to disclose his own vaccination status, saying ‘I won’t say publicly whether I am vaccinated or not.’
‘Some people are offended by having to provide vaccine documentation at their work,’ Walsh said about potentially offending people with the star. ‘I can’t control who is offended by what.’
On Tuesday, the the Anti-Defamation League Pacific Northwest Region released a statement, condemning Walsh.
‘During these challenging times of rising antisemitism, elected officials continue to deepen the pain through ignorant Holocaust analogies to COVID-19 health guidelines,’ the statement read in part.
‘Let us be clear, Rep. Walsh’s comparisons are a gross misappropriation of history to advance an ignorant political point of “freedom.” It is deeply offensive and discounts the painful history of marginalized communities.
‘There is simply no comparison for the systematic murder of six million Jews and the segregation of the African American community that has lasting impacts to today.’
One day after he refused to back down on Tuesday, Walsh went on a radio show with Jim Rantz, where he apologized on Wednesday.
One day after he refused to back down on Tuesday, Walsh (left) went on a radio show with Jim Rantz, where he apologized on Wednesday
‘This gesture went too far,’ Walsh said. ‘It was inappropriate and offensive and I’m terribly sorry that it happened and that I was a part of it.’
Walsh added, ‘The imagery is intense and can’t effectively be used to make points like this. You can’t use some things as a metaphor because they go beyond the pale. They go beyond what people can accept – will accept – as a metaphoric point.’
He went on to refer to wearing the star as ‘a dumb idea.’
Separately, Walsh released a statement: ‘I apologize for using a profound image in a way that was inappropriate and offensive to so many people. It was wrong. It won’t happen ever again.’
Dee Simon, Baral Family executive director of the Holocaust Center for Humanity in Seattle, criticized Walsh for wearing the star.
‘Our government is making an effort to protect their own citizens, not kill them,’ Simon said to the Seattle Times. ‘It not only trivializes it, it distorts history.’
The Department of Labor and Industries in Washington does require verification of vaccine status before mask requirements are lifted in individual workplaces.
Walsh is not the first politician to draw fire for making a parallel between COVID-19 vaccines and the Holocaust.
Last month, Marjorie Taylor Greene apologized for likening mask mandates to the Holocaust, admitting there was ‘no comparison’ and saying she was ‘very sorry.’
On May 20, she told David Brody for his podcast The Water Cooler that Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House, was ‘mentally ill’ for maintaining COVID restrictions.
‘You know, we can look back at a time in history where people were told to wear a gold star, and they were definitely treated like second class citizens, so much so that they were put in trains and taken to gas chambers in Nazi Germany,’ Greene said.
On May 25, she tweeted: ‘Vaccinated employees get a vaccination logo just like the Nazi’s forced Jewish people to wear a gold star.
‘Vaccine passports & mask mandates create discrimination against unvaxxed people who trust their immune systems to a virus that is 99% survivable.’
Even her own party condemned her stance.
Kevin McCarthy, the House Minority Leader, called her latest comments ‘wrong’ and ‘appalling’ and said the rest of the party was behind him.
HatWRKS owner Gigi Gaskins had announced that items reminiscent of the Star of David were on sale in a post shared to Instagram, ultimately leading to an apology
Additionally, a Nashville hat store owner issued an apology recently for selling ‘Not Vaccinated’ patches reminiscent of those Nazis forced Jews to wear in the 1930s and 40s, after major hat producers announced they would stop doing business with the store.
HatWRKS owner Gigi Gaskins had announced that the items were on sale in a post shared to Instagram.
But she apologized on the social media site on Saturday night, and insisted she did not intend to ‘exploit or make a profit’ from the Holocaust, in which 6 million Jews were murdered.