Originally published in the Washington Post.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) is being widely lambasted for comparing the continuing coronavirus restrictions in the U.S. Capitol to what Jewish people suffered during the Holocaust.
In a recent appearance on Real America’s Voice network’s “The Water Cooler with David Brody,” a conservative show, Greene complained about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s recent decision to keep a mask mandate on the House floor over concerns that many Republican lawmakers might not be vaccinated.
“This woman is mentally ill,” Greene said, referring to Pelosi (D-Calif.). “You know, we can look back in a time in history where people were told to wear a gold star, and they were definitely treated like second-class citizens — so much so that they were put in trains and taken to gas chambers in Nazi Germany and this is exactly the type of abuse that Nancy Pelosi is talking about.”
Greene was erroneously referring to the yellow Star of David that most Jews under Nazi rule were ordered to wear. Earlier in the podcast, Brody balked at Pelosi’s recent suggestion that unvaccinated GOP lawmakers who didn’t want to wear a mask should vote in a separate gallery off the House floor.
“I think she’s talking segregation,” Brody said. “That’s right. I said it.”
A clip of Greene’s interview shared by CNN’s Jake Tapper Friday night went viral on social media. Tapper also noted that Brody nodded along to Greene’s response and did not challenge her on the Holocaust comparison.
By Saturday, a slew of Democrats and a handful of Republicans had condemned Greene’s remarks, though some of the most pointed pushback came from the minority of voices in Greene’s own party.
Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), who was recently ousted from Republican leadership for her criticism of former president Donald Trump, decried Greene’s comparison as “evil lunacy.”
“Absolute sickness,” Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) tweeted.
Former Virginia congressman Denver Riggleman, a Republican, blasted Greene for “a grotesque idiocy mixed with a neurotic lack of self awareness.”
“Comparing wearing masks to the abuse of the Holocaust is a not so subtle diminution of the horrors experienced by millions,” he said.
“Today’s profoundly ignorant Republican Party, in a nutshell,” tweeted Joe Walsh, a former tea party activist turned Trump critic who had mounted a long-shot campaign to challenge Trump in the Republican primary.
The American Jewish Congress called on Greene to immediately retract her comments and apologize.
“You can never compare health-related restrictions with yellow stars, gas chambers & other Nazi atrocities,” the group stated. “Such comparisons demean the Holocaust & contaminate American political speech.”
Several critics noted that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) had remained silent about Greene’s remarks. Representatives for his and for Greene’s offices did not immediately respond to requests for comment Saturday.
In a later episode of “The Water Cooler with David Brody,” host Brody followed up on the “clearly controversial remarks” Greene had made on his show and tried to cast the fallout from the interview as mostly a public-relations issue.
“From a PR perspective, any time you kind of ‘go there’ when you start to talk about Holocaust-type tactics, gas chambers and that, it is a PR nightmare and this is exactly what’s happening here,” Brody said. “Was the sentiment coming from a bad place? No. But the PR aspect of this obviously has caused a few ripples out there.”
Pelosi has defended her decision to keep a mask mandate on the House floor by citing the relatively large number of Republican lawmakers who either have refused to be vaccinated against the coronavirus or who do not want to disclose that they had been vaccinated. A CNN survey last week found that 100 percent of House Democrats have received their vaccines, but only 95 out of 212 House Republicans said they had. Greene, who accused Pelosi of “running a tyrannical, oppressive workplace,” is among the GOP lawmakers who have turned down the vaccine.
“The honor system? … Do you want them breathing in your face on the strength of their honor?” Pelosi said Thursday. “We have a responsibility to make sure that the House of Representatives chamber is not a petri dish because of the selfishness of some not to be vaccinated.”
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