A Kansas newspaper likened the state governor’s compulsory face-mask order to the Holocaust with a cartoon, captioned: “Step onto the cattle car.”
The Anderson County Review published a cartoon depicting Gov. Laura Kelly wearing a protective face mask emblazoned with a Star of David, against a scene showing women and children being forced onto a railway wagon. It is a clear reference to Nazi Germany deporting Jewish people to death camps where millions were murdered.
The caption adds: “Lockdown Laura says: Put on your mask … and step onto the cattle car.”
The cartoon was published on Facebook on Friday. The same day Kelly signed an executive order ordering most Kansas to wear a face mask to protect against the coronavirus in public or places where they cannot socially distance.
The cartoon is scheduled to print on Tuesday, according to The Associated Press.
The newspaper’s owner Dane Hicks is the chairman of the Anderson County Republican PartyKelly, the state governor, is a Democrat.
The cartoon has drawn widespread criticism on social media as well as across both political aisles.
Kelly issued a statement to the AP saying: “Mr. Hicks’ decision to publish anti-Semitic imagery is deeply offensive and he should remove it immediately.”
Kansas Republican Party Chairman Michael Kuckelman told the AP that posting the cartoon is “inappropriate,” but noted that “it is on the newspaper Facebook page and media has wide berth” with the First Amendment, which guarantees freedom of speech and the press.
Facebook did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment on whether it would take action.
Hicks has also refused to back down, saying the newspaper will continue with plans to print the cartoon on Monday.
“Political editorial cartoons are gross over-caricatures designed to provoke debate and response — that’s why newspapers publish them — fodder for the marketplace of ideas,” he wrote in an email, as cited by The New York Times.
“The topic here is the governmental overreach which has been the hallmark of Governor Kelly’s administration.”
He said he intended no offense to Holocaust survivors, but added: “Apologies: To whom exactly? The critics on the Facebook page? Facebook is a cesspool and I only participate to develop readership.”
Hicks also told the AP that President Donald Trump’s critics have previously compared him to Adolf Hitler. “I certainly have more evidence of that kind of totalitarianism in Kelly’s actions, in an editorial cartoon sort of way, than Trump’s critics do, yet they persist in it daily,” he said.
The US coronavirus outbreak is currently the worst in the world, and is continuing to exacerbate.
Despite extensive research showing that wearing face masks helps prevent coronavirus infections, wearing face masks has become a politically divisive topic, with different states mandating different orders. Those against wearing face masks have skewed to the political right.
Trump, who has for months refused to wear a face mask in public, told Fox Business Network earlier this week he was “all for masks” and that “if I were in a tight situation with people I would, absolutely.”
He added that he “sort of liked” how he looked with one on, saying he looked like the Lone Ranger, a fictional masked western hero who fought outlaws.