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Kansas governor calls on GOP county chair to remove cartoon comparing mask order to Holocaust

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly (D) is calling on a Republican state official to remove a cartoon from his newspaper's Facebook page that compares her recent order requiring face masks in public to the Holocaust. 

The cartoon was published on Friday on the Facebook page of the Anderson County Review, a newspaper owned by Anderson County Republican Party Chairman Dane Hicks. The cartoon features a woman wearing a mask with a Star of David attached to it in front of a line of people entering a cattle car. 

“Lockdown Laura says: Put on your mask … and step onto the cattle car,” the caption reads. 

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Kelly, whose executive order requiring face masks went into effect on Friday, said in a statement to The Associated Press that Hicks's decision to "publish anti-Semitic imagery is deeply offensive and he should remove it immediately."

“While it’s disappointing to see, on July Fourth of all days, I know that Mr. Hicks’s views are not shared by the people of Anderson County nor Kansas as a whole," she added. 

However, Hicks is standing by the cartoon. He told The New York Times that he was the person who crafted it and that he planned to publish it in print on Tuesday. The GOP county official also asserted that he “intended no slight" to Holocaust survivors or Jewish people. 

“Political editorial cartoons are gross over-caricatures designed to provoke debate and response — that’s why newspapers publish them — fodder for the marketplace of ideas,” he said. “The topic here is the governmental overreach which has been the hallmark of Governor Kelly’s administration.”

The Anderson County Republican Party did not immediately respond to a request for further comment from The Hill. 

The cartoon's appearance came as parts of the U.S., including Kansas, experience a surge in coronavirus cases, causing some states to pause their reopening plans. The U.S. reported about 54,500 new cases of the virus on Thursday, according to a Johns Hopkins University database, representing a new high amid the pandemic. 

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The upward trend in cases has led to a more aggressive push from federal and state leaders for the use of facial coverings. But the recommendations have produced tensions in various regions. In Palm Beach County, Florida, a group of residents last week filed a lawsuit over an order requiring residents wear masks in public. 

The complaint alleges that such an order infringes the plaintiffs' constitutionally protected rights.

In Kansas, Kelly's mask mandate requires residents to wear a facial covering whenever in an indoor public setting. Masks are required if people cannot maintain six feet of social distancing while outside, according to the order.  

The policy, which allows counties to opt out, will remain in effect until is either rescinded or a statewide State of Disaster Emergency related to the coronavirus pandemic expires. 

"Not only is Mr. Hicks’ graphic extremely offensive, nonsensical and out of touch with the values of hardworking Kansans, it endangers public health of our entire state during an unprecedented global health crisis," Kansas Democratic Party Executive Director Ben Meers said in a statement. "Across the country, Republican and Democratic governors have issued executive orders to encourage collective mask wearing because it is an easy and effective way to prevent our communities from contracting COVID-19."