ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) — Nikiski Republican Rep. Ben Carpenter sparked controversy on Friday when he compared coronavirus restrictions at the Alaska State Capitol with Nazi labeling of Jews.
In a story first published in political blog the Alaska Landmine, Carpenter engaged in an email exchange with fellow lawmakers about coronavirus screening measures at the Capitol. Legislators will be asked to wear a sticker showing they have been screened for COVID-19 when they enter the building.
Carpenter wrote: “How about an armband that won’t fall off like a sticker will? If my sticker falls off, do I get a new one or do I get public shaming too? Are the stickers available as a yellow Star of David?”
The reference to a Star of David, required to be worn by Jews during the Nazi occupation of Europe and the Holocaust, was slammed by two Democratic legislators who are both Jewish.
“This is disgusting. Keep your Holocaust jokes to yourself,” wrote Rep. Grier Hopkins, D-Fairbanks.
“I don’t think a tag that we’re cleared to enter the building is akin to being shipped to a concentration camp. It’s more akin to needing a boarding pass when you get through TSA. This is that,” wrote Rep. Andy Josephson, D-Anchorage.
Fellow Homer Republican Rep. Sarah Vance defended Carpenter, writing, “We should all be concerned about the implications of being labeled as ‘non compliant’ or wearing a badge of ‘compliance.’”
Carpenter’s comments erupted a firestorm of debate on social media about the appropriateness of referencing the Holocaust when talking about coronavirus restrictions. The story was picked up by national outlets, including the Washington Post.
On Sunday, Carpenter wrote an opinion piece in political blog Must Read Alaska explaining his comments were about defending civil liberties and apologizing for any offense caused.
“In haste, I chose to juxtapose a proposed Alaskan legislative requirement to wear a ‘COVID-19 free sticker’ with the Star of David that the Jews were required by their government to wear during the Holocaust,” Carpenter wrote.
Rep. Ben Carpenter did not respond to a request for comment before press time.
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