Minnesota’s Walz hits rival Jensen for Holocaust remarks

Aug 25, 2022, 2:26 PM | Updated: 2:39 pm

FALCON HEIGHTS, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz criticized Republican challenger Scott Jensen on Thursday for repeated comments that equated masking rules and other restrictions the governor imposed early in the COVID-19 pandemic with the rise of authoritarianism in Nazi Germany and the Holocaust.

Walz said such casual Holocaust comparisons, especially in today’s charged political environment, are unacceptable. A stream of Jewish community leaders have also said Jensen was offensive and distorted history by minimizing the Holocaust.

“Being wrong is one thing,” Walz told The Associated Press in an interview at the opening of the Minnesota State Fair, one of the many events canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic. “Being told by people who know this issue that you’re wrong, and then continuing on, that becomes a character and a judgment issue.”

Jensen, a family physician and former state senator, built his campaign, especially in its early days, on a platform of vaccine skepticism and opposition to the Walz administration’s management of the pandemic.

Jensen’s latest remarks drew attention this week when a local Jewish website, TC Jewfolk, posted video of his speech in April to a “Mask Off Minnesota” event, at which he talked about gradual erosions of freedom in Germany in the 1930s, and compared it with Walz’s gradually increasing restrictions in the early months of the pandemic.

“And then the little things grew into something bigger. Then there was a night called Kristallnacht. The night of the breaking glass. Then there was the book burning, and it kept growing and growing, and a guy named Hitler kept growing in power, and World War II came about,” Jensen told the group.

Jensen stood by his statements in a defiant social media video Tuesday.

“When I make a comparison that says that I saw government policies intruding on American freedoms incrementally, one piece at a time, and compare that to what happened in the 1930s, I think it’s a legitimate comparison,” Jensen said. “It may not strike your fancy, that’s fine. But this is how I think and you don’t get to be my thought police person.”

Jensen returned to the theme that night at a Republican Jewish Coalition event, saying the governor’s restrictions were all about compliance and control.

Ethan Roberts, director of government affairs for the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas, said comments like Jensen’s trivialize the Holocaust.

“Generally speaking, no one should ever compare things to the Holocaust unless we’re talking about genocide. Full stop,” Roberts said. “Such comparisons are inflammatory. They’re deeply, deeply historically inaccurate.”

The Holocaust wasn’t a story about incrementalism, Roberts explained, it was a story about genocide. And to equate it with masks that were intended to protect people is “an extremely bad analogy,” he said.

Jensen is far from the only politician to get in trouble for Holocaust comparisons. Republican U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert, of Colorado, was condemned last year for accusing Gov. Jared Polis of sending “brown shirts” to shut down restaurants during the pandemic, and for accusing President Joe Biden of sending “needle Nazis” to coerce vaccinations.

Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, of Georgia, apologized last year after comparing House floor coronavirus safety measures to how the Nazis made Jews wear stars of David and sent them to the gas chambers. GOP House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, of California, called the comparison “appalling.” Earlier this year, Republican Rep. Warren Davidson, of Ohio, apologized to Jewish groups after comparing mask and vaccine mandates to Nazi practices.

There’s been a steady increase in the use of Holocaust and Nazi analogies across the country over the last few years, said David Goldenberg, Midwest regional director for the Anti-Defamation League.

“At the end of the day, there is no logical comparison to be made, and regardless of how passionate someone might feel, they have to realize it’s a bad and deeply offensive comparison,” Goldenberg said.

Jensen wasn’t available for an interview Thursday, with his campaign citing a busy schedule of State Fair events. He left a campaign event early on Wednesday before reporters could ask him about the controversy, but his running mate, former Minnesota Vikings center Matt Birk, was dismissive.

“We know the game. I mean, I’ve been a victim of it, Scott’s been the victim of it for a long time. You take 10-second sound clips and then everybody, it’s the age of outrage on Twitter,” Birk told reporters.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Lead water pipes pulled from underneath the street are seen in Newark, N.J., Oct. 21, 2021. (AP Pho...

Associated Press

Biden to require cities to replace harmful lead pipes within 10 years

The Biden administration has previously said it wants all of the nation's roughly 9 million lead pipes to be removed, and rapidly.

3 days ago

Facebook's Meta logo sign is seen at the company headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., on, Oct. 28, 2...

Associated Press

Meta shuts down thousands of fake Facebook accounts that were primed to polarize voters ahead of 2024

Meta said it removed 4789 Facebook accounts in China that targeted the United States before next year’s election.

3 days ago

A demonstrator in Tel Aviv holds a sign calling for a cease-fire in the Hamas-Israel war on Nov. 21...

Associated Press

Hamas releases a third group of hostages as part of truce, and says it will seek to extend the deal

The fragile cease-fire between Israel and Hamas was back on track Sunday as the first American was released under a four-day truce.

8 days ago

Men look over the site of a deadly explosion at Al-Ahli Hospital in Gaza City, Wednesday, Oct. 18, ...

Associated Press

New AP analysis of last month’s deadly Gaza hospital explosion rules out widely cited video

The Associated Press is publishing an updated visual analysis of the deadly Oct. 17 explosion at Gaza's Al-Ahli Hospital.

11 days ago

Peggy Simpson holds a photograph of law enforcement carrying Lee Harvey Oswald's gun through a hall...

Associated Press

JFK assassination remembered 60 years later by surviving witnesses to history, including AP reporter

Peggy Simpson is among the last surviving witnesses who are sharing their stories as the nation marks the 60th anniversary.

11 days ago

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, chairs the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Sunday, ...

Associated Press

Israeli Cabinet approves cease-fire with Hamas; deal includes release of 50 hostages

Israel’s Cabinet on Wednesday approved a cease-fire deal with the Hamas militant group that would bring a temporary halt to a devastating war.

12 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Follow @KTAR923...

Valley residents should be mindful of plumbing ahead of holidays

With Halloween in the rear-view and more holidays coming up, Day & Night recommends that Valley residents prepare accordingly.

Follow @KTAR923...

The 2023 Diamondbacks are a good example to count on the underdog

The Arizona Diamondbacks made the World Series as a surprise. That they made the playoffs at all, got past the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Wild Card round, swept the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLDS and won two road games in Philadelphia to close out a full seven-game NLCS went against every expectation. Now, […]


Midwestern University

Midwestern University: innovating Arizona health care education

Midwestern University’s Glendale Campus near Loop 101 and 59th Avenue is an established leader in health care education and one of Arizona’s largest and most valuable health care resources.

Minnesota’s Walz hits rival Jensen for Holocaust remarks