Washington state lawmaker apologises for wearing Star of David to protest Covid vaccines

Lawmaker previously compared vaccine efforts to segregation laws used to oppress Black Americans

Graig Graziosi
Thursday 01 July 2021 20:49 BST
Washington State Representative Jim Walsh wearing a yellow Star of David to complain about vaccine mandates during a speech.
Washington State Representative Jim Walsh wearing a yellow Star of David to complain about vaccine mandates during a speech. (screengrab)

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Washington state Congressman Jim Walsh apologised for wearing a yellow “Star of David” and comparing the treatment of Jewish people during the Holocaust to coronavirus vaccine mandates.

The lawmaker wore the symbol while giving a speech to conservative activists in his state on Saturday.

Mr Walsh offered an apology on Wednesday for misusing the symbol.

“I apologise 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,” he said in a statement.

He gave his apology on a talk radio show.

The Seattle Times reported the lawmaker's use of the symbol, suggesting that vaccine mandates – none of which exist in his state – were akin to the Nazi treatment of Jews and segregation laws used to oppress African Americans during the Civil Rights movement.

He called vaccine efforts an “echo from history”, during his speech, suggesting that “in the current context, we're all Jews”.

Mr Walsh previously said he would not say publicly if he was vaccinated, comparing his refusal to comment to the film “Spartacus”, in which a group of slaves refuse to identify a Roman general despite being threatened with crucifixion.

He also likened the state's lottery meant to encourage people to get the vaccination to “The Hunger Games”.

The congressman is not the first lawmaker to make the comparison between vaccine mandates and the Holocaust; Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene also made the comparison, and was also later forced to apologise. She gave a statement after visiting the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC.

“There are words that I have said, remarks that I've made that I know are offensive, and for that I'd like to apologise,” she said. “So I should own it. I made a mistake.”

Despite their apologies, other conservative activists have run with the comparison, drawing concern from Jewish advocacy groups like the American Defamation League.

The ADL warned that in the US and in Europe that "anti-Covid measures and anti-vaccination demonstrations have become the hotbeds of Holocaust trivialisation and antisemitic conspiracy theories and tropes."

Brian Levin, a professor at California State University at San Bernardino who studies extremism told The Washington Post that the comparisons and fearmongering were being used as powerful political cudgels.

"Fear sells politically. And the guardrails have come off with respect to what is acceptable for elected officials' political discourse," Mr Levin said. "There are no guardrails now with respect to offense, ignorance and downright stupidity."

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