WASHINGTON — A Republican member of Congress drew swift condemnation Wednesday after comparing D.C.’s upcoming vaccine mandate to Nazi Germany — marking the latest instance in which a GOP lawmaker has chosen to compare measures intended to quell a public health emergency to Nazi practices that culminated in the genocide of millions of Jews.
Rep. Warren Davidson of Ohio made the comparison while responding to Democratic Mayor Muriel Bowser’s reminder on Twitter that, beginning Saturday, patrons will need to show proof of coronavirus vaccination to enter restaurants, bars, theaters or other places where people congregate indoors. Religious and medical exemptions are allowed.
Davidson tweeted, “This has been done before. #DoNotComply,” and included a Nazi-era identifying document emblazoned with a swastika.
“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,” Davidson wrote. He linked to a post in which an unvaccinated person who died of COVID-19 was mocked and added, “Dehumanizing and segregation are underway — and wrong.”
Jewish organizations described his Nazi comparison as “disgusting” and exploitative of modern history’s darkest tragedy. The Auschwitz Memorial responded directly to Davidson condemning his comments.
“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,” the museum wrote to Davidson.
The American Jewish Committee, which fights antisemitism, asked him to remove the “shameful” post and apologize.
A spokeswoman for Davidson did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
The Nazi comparisons have been proliferating on the right for months, in many cases without accountability from Republican congressional leaders as Jewish organizations and others repeatedly sound the alarm.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., caused an uproar after making a similar comparison last year, comparing mask mandates to the Nazi practice of requiring Jews to wear the Star of David. After mass condemnation, she visited the Holocaust Museum and then walked back her comments and apologized.
But Greene did not stop the Nazi comparisons after her apology and a reprimand from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., just weeks later comparing people going door-to-door to promote vaccinations to Hitler’s brownshirts paramilitary organization.
She is far from the only one to have made similar comments. Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., called the same door-knockers “needle Nazis,” while Rep. Madison Cawthorn, R-N.C., said “vaccine passports” “smack of 1940s Nazi Germany.”
“Comparing mandates designed to save lives to Nazi war crimes is disgusting,” the liberal Jewish advocacy group J Street tweeted Wednesday in response to Davidson’s comparison. “For this to happen once is too much. That it’s become a mainstream GOP talking point is horrifying.”
Rep. Don Beyer, D-Va., who represents neighboring Arlington and Alexandria, urged his Republican colleagues to “stop equating public health safety measures recommended by scientists to protect the American people with the Nazis’ systematic murder of millions of people.”
A spokesman for McCarthy did not immediately respond to a request for comment about Davidson’s tweets.
Bowser announced the planned vaccine mandate last month for people ages 12 and up as the omicron variant causes record-smashing levels of new coronavirus cases and has put hospitals in a crisis. D.C. joins other major cities including New York, Los Angeles and Philadelphia in having similar vaccine mandates.
The order, which goes into effect Saturday, means that restaurants, bars, nightclubs, theaters and gyms, among other places, will ask patrons to show proof of vaccination. They can also show proof of a medical exemption or attest to a religious exemption. The vaccine mandate does not apply to grocery stores, pharmacies, retail shops or similar businesses where people are passing through. The requirement also does not apply to houses of worship.
Republicans on the Hill have reacted angrily to the new policy. Those on the House Oversight and Reform Committee wrote to Bowser last week requesting that she withdraw the order, fearing it will harm the District’s economic recovery and revenue from its tourism and hospitality sectors.
On Tuesday, Rep. Bob Good, R-Va. — one of Congress’ most outspoken opponents of virtually any measure to respond to the pandemic — appeared to lob a not-so-veiled threat at Bowser, reminding her of Congress’ oversight of the D.C. budget. Good had been criticized earlier that day even by fellow Republicans after suggesting that the House Freedom Caucus boycott the GOP Capitol Hill Club for following Bowser’s order, the Hill reported.