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GOP official apologizes for cartoon equating lockdown mask mandate with Holocaust

A rural Kansas newspaper owned by a Republican Party chairman retracted a cartoon, widely criticized as anti-Semitic, that equated the state’s lockdown rules to the Holocaust.

The cartoon, posted to the Facebook page of the newspaper on Friday, depicted Kansas’ Democratic governor, Laura Kelly, wearing a face mask with a Star of David on it, superimposed over an image of Jews being put into cattle cars bound for concentration camps. The caption of the cartoon was “Lockdown Laura says: Put on your mask… and step into the cattle car.”

Dane Hicks, publisher of the Anderson County Review, wrote on Facebook on Sunday that the point of the cartoon was “government overreach in Kansas.”

“After some heartfelt and educational conversations with Jewish leaders in the U.S. and abroad, I can acknowledge the imagery in my recent editorial cartoon … was deeply hurtful to members of a culture who’ve been dealt plenty of hurt throughout history — people to whom I never desired to be hurtful in the illustration of my point,” Hicks wrote.

Hicks added that he “previously lacked an adequate understanding of the severity of their experience and the pain of its images.”

Hicks had previously called his critics “liberal Marxist parasites” before issuing the apology. In a statement to the Chicago Tribune, Hicks defended the cartoon by saying that editorial cartoons are “gross over-caricatures designed to provoke debate” and “fodder for the marketplace of ideas.”

The context of the cartoon is an order from Kelly, which went into effect Friday, mandating that people in Kansas wear masks in public spaces. Cases of Covid-19 are either flat or rising in most parts of Kansas. Last week, the state saw 1,800 new cases and 10 deaths, according to the Washington Post.

Rabbi Moti Rieber, the executive director of Kansas Interfaith Action, called the cartoon a “trifecta of garbage,” because nearly all comparisons of current events to the Holocaust are “odious,” it is “incoherent” to compare measures designed to save lives to mass murder and because it implies, with the Star of David, that “nefarious Jews” are behind the mask order.

Ari Feldman is a staff writer at the Forward. Contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @aefeldman

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