Republican nominee for governor Scott Jensen on Tuesday doubled down on his comparisons of COVID-19 public health measures to Nazism.
In April, at an event hosted by Mask Off MN, Jensen attempted to draw comparisons between public safety measures such as mask mandates and the events preceding World War II — namely, Kristallnacht and the rise of Adolf Hitler.
The remarks were brought to light Monday in an article published by TCJewfolk.
The Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas and other organizations have long condemned such remarks and asked for political figures and others to refrain from such comparisons.
"They insult the memory of the Holocaust’s victims and survivors and are deeply hurtful to most Jews and others whose communities were victimized," JCRC stated in July 2020.
Ethan Roberts, the organization's director of government affairs, responded to Jensen's past remarks on Monday, calling such comparisons "extremely wrong" and "damaging."
But in a Facebook video Tuesday, Jensen – who has opposed COVID-19 measures, spread conspiracy theories about the virus and its treatments, and cast doubt on the necessity of vaccinations since the onset of the pandemic – doubled down on his belief that the events are comparable, and said he doesn't believe his remarks were insensitive.
"I was making a comparison between the incremental change that frequently occurs and is oftentimes missed by people living through it at the time," he said. "It's oftentimes incremental change designed by government to effect sweeping societal changes — frequently, centering on compliance and control."
Jensen then read from "First They Came", a famous post-war confessional poem by Martin Niemöller — a German pastor who initially supported Nazism but changed his views after being imprisoned in a concentration camp.
“I think it’s a legitimate comparison," Jensen said. "It may not strike your fancy — that’s fine — but this is how I think, and you don’t get to be my thought police person."
“I’m passionate in my support of the state of Israel, as well as the Jewish people,” he concluded.
On Wednesday, the American Jewish Committee responded to Jensen's defense of his past remarks.
"To equate a public health emergency with Kristallnacht, a terror spree in Germany that destroyed Jewish homes, businesses and synagogues, is not a legitimate comparison," stated Jacob Millner, the organization's Minnesota regional director.
"We call upon Jensen to refrain from further Holocaust comparisons. Instead, he should seek to better understand the severity of the Holocaust and realize there is no comparison to the horror it inflicted on millions of innocent people."
Roberts, with the JCRC, said Jensen's attempts to tell a story about something becoming incrementally worse don't necessitate a comparison to the Holocaust.
"It's not a story of things incrementally getting worse — it's a story about genocide," Roberts said Wednesday, adding the organization remains hopeful Jensen will agree to a meeting.
"The vast, vast majority of people in our Jewish community believe these comparisons are awful and just incredibly wrong," he continued.