Late last week, frustrated with the idea of having to wear a sticker indicating he’d been tested for COVID-19, Alaska State Rep. Ben Carpenter emailed all of his colleagues to ask if they were also “available as a yellow Star of David.” In other words, he was comparing his health-screening sticker to the mark Nazis placed on Jews during WWII.
It didn’t go over well, mostly because Carpenter showed how little he understood about both the virus and the Holocaust.
Instead of apologizing, Carpenter doubled down by defending Hitler against charges of white supremacy.
But Carpenter dug in.
“Can you or I — can we even say it is totally out of the realm of possibility that covid-19 patients will be rounded up and taken somewhere?” he said later in an interview with the Anchorage Daily News, arguing that officials are overreacting to the virus with limits on people’s liberty. “People want to say Hitler was a white supremacist. No. He was fearful of the Jewish nation, and that drove him into some unfathomable atrocities.”
The Holocaust could have been prevented if only Jews weren’t so scary is an odd flex for a politician, especially when reality is more like a power-hungry dictator saw a convenient scapegoat to cast the blame for Germany’s economic crisis. (Fixed it for you, Carpenter.)
Some Jewish representatives responded to the Republican’s ignorant comments:
“If people want to have a dialogue about how this is infringing on our Constitution, I’m happy to have that conversation,” said Rep. Grier Hopkins (D), the Jewish representative who wrote the email calling Carpenter’s initial message disgusting.
“But I hope he understands that this is not the Holocaust, and how that massacred 6 million Jews, and how genocide is not health mandates,” he told The Washington Post on Saturday.
It’s worth pointing out, however, that Carpenter didn’t rule out utter ignorance. Perhaps he didn’t realize the weight of what he was saying, but he said something stupid anyway. That’s always a bad idea. It’s even worse when it comes in response to a sensible policy proposal. His outburst belongs in a Facebook comment thread, not in an email sent by an elected official.
If Carpenter doesn’t understand the seriousness of the Holocaust, then he should be taking a history class, not writing laws. What a disgrace.
By the way, he finally issued a half-hearted apology yesterday. But it was one of those “I apologize if you were offended” apologies, not one that indicates he genuinely feels any remorse.
“My email comments have been perceived by many to be offensive. For any offense taken, I apologize because my words are my responsibility. It was not my intent to be offensive; quite the opposite.
“I take my responsibility as the voice of the people who elected me very seriously. I also hold the Jewish people in the highest regard. I do not take myself so seriously that I cannot recognize that the words I wrote, and those attributed to me, do not adequately reflect the esteem I hold for either group of people,” he wrote.
No word yet on whether anyone’s accepting that “apology.”
(Screenshot via YouTube)