A Kansas newspaper whose publisher is a county Republican chairman posted a cartoon on its Facebook page likening an order from the state’s governor requiring people to wear masks in public to the round-up and murder of millions of Jews during the Holocaust.
The cartoon on the Anderson County Review’s Facebook page depicts Democratic governor Laura Kelly wearing a mask with a Jewish Star of David on it, next to people being loaded on to train cars. Its caption is: “Lockdown Laura says: Put on your mask … and step on to the cattle car.”
The newspaper posted the cartoon on Friday, the day Kelly’s mask order took effect. It drew several hundred comments, many strongly critical.
Publisher Dane Hicks, who is also Anderson county’s Republican party chairman, said he would answer questions once he could reach a computer. His newspaper is based in the county seat of Garnett, about 65 miles south-west of Kansas City. It has a circulation of about 2,100, according to the Kansas Press Association.
Kelly, who is Catholic, issued a statement saying: “Mr Hicks’ decision to publish antisemitic imagery is deeply offensive and he should remove it immediately.”
Kansas Senate minority leader Anthony Hensley, a Democrat, called the cartoon “appalling” and “disgusting” and said anyone connected to its posting should be fired.
Rabbi Moti Rieber, executive director of Kansas Interfaith Action, said most if not all comparisons of current events to the Holocaust are “odious” and said it was “incoherent” to equate the masks order, an action designed to save lives, with mass murder.
Finally, he said, putting the Star of David on Kelly’s mask was antisemitic because it implies “nefarious Jews” are behind her actions.
“This thing is like the trifecta of garbage,” Rieber said, calling on Republican leaders to repudiate the cartoon and Hicks.
Some Republicans have criticized Kelly’s order for infringing on personal liberties, though Kansas law allows counties to opt out and Anderson county has done so.
The governor issued the order because of a resurgence in coronavirus cases that increased the state’s total to nearly 16,000 as of Friday, when Kansas finished its worst two-week rise since the pandemic began. The state has reported 277 Covid-19-related deaths.
The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected without feeling sick.
State Republican chairman Mike Kuckelman was spending the Fourth of July in the Missouri Ozarks and did not immediately respond to a text seeking comment.
Hicks previously criticized Kelly in a blogpost for taking a “one-size-fits-all approach” to reopening what he called the state’s “bureaucracy-hammered” economy.
Kelly lifted statewide restrictions on businesses and public gatherings on 26 May, after weeks of criticism from the Republican-controlled state legislature. Some conservative lawmakers have accused her of being heavy handed and dictatorial.
Anderson county, with about 7,900 residents, is part of a conservative swath of eastern Kansas. Republicans outnumber Democrats two to one and Donald Trump carried it with nearly 73% of the vote in 2016.
The state health department has reported four coronavirus cases for Anderson county, all since 8 May. There have been no reported deaths there.
County commission chairman Jerry Howarter said of the more than 70 people who showed up to its meeting on the mask mandate on Friday, all but one opposed it. He said he had not seen the cartoon.