Rep. Warren Davidson, R-Ohio, apologized one day after comparing Washington, D.C.’s COVID-19 mitigation policies to Nazi Germany.
"Bad things happen when governments dehumanize people," Davidson wrote in a statement Thursday. "Sometimes, there is a next step — to systematically segregate them.”
“Unfortunately, any reference to how the Nazis actually did that prevents a focus on anything other than the Holocaust,” Davidson continued, implying that comparing vaccine mandates to Nazi tactics would be acceptable with more nuance. “I appreciate my Jewish friends who have explained their perspectives and feel horrible that I have offended anyone. My sincere apologies."
On Wednesday, Davidson responded to a message from Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser about a vaccine and mask mandate in the city by tweeting out a Nazi health document and the message “This has been done before. #DoNotComply.”
“Let’s recall that the Nazis dehumanized Jewish people before segregating them, segregated them before imprisoning them, imprisoned them before enslaving them, and enslaved them before massacring them,” added Davidson.
As of Thursday afternoon, Davidson had yet to delete any of his tweets making the comparison.
The official Twitter account for the Auschwitz Museum replied to Davidson, writing, “Exploiting of the tragedy of all people who between 1933-45 suffered, were humiliated, tortured & murdered by the totalitarian regime of Nazi Germany in a debate about vaccines & covid limitations in the time of global pandemic is a sad symptom of moral and intellectual decay.”
“It's never appropriate to compare requirements for public health with the tactics of Nazi Germany,” responded the Anti-Defamation League. “As we've said too many times to count, minimizing the Holocaust in this way is deeply offensive and harmful.”
“For congressman Davidson to equate vaccine mandates with the systematic extermination of 6 million Jews by the Nazis is beyond repugnant,” said Cathy Heldman, director of the American Jewish Committee's Cincinnati office. “We call on him to apologize for this hurtful and completely inappropriate comparison. Antisemitic tropes have no place in the conversation about COVID vaccines.”
“Cliff Notes: opposition to vaccine mandates ≠ opposition to vaccines ≠ opposition to vaccine passports,” Davidson tweeted Wednesday after the initial blowback. “I oppose mandates and passports, voted to fund vaccine development and distribution, and work to defend your freedom to choose and your freedom to keep that choice private.”
Davidson, who was first elected in 2016 and represents a district in the western portion of the Buckeye State, is not the first Republican representative to invoke Nazism when pushing back against vaccine and mask mandates. While many Republican legislators have promoted the vaccines, numerous others have baselessly insisted that the shots are unsafe.
At the end of last year, the Twitter account for Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee deleted a post that read: “If the booster shots work, why don’t they work?" According to tracking from the Kaiser Family Foundation, only 59 percent of Republicans have been vaccinated, compared with 91 percent of Democrats and 68 percent of independents.