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Kansas GOP county chairman apologizes for newspaper cartoon comparing mask order to Holocaust

Kansas GOP county chairman apologizes for newspaper cartoon comparing mask order to Holocaust
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A Kansas GOP official has apologized for publishing a cartoon on his newspaper's Facebook page that compared Gov. Laura Kelly's (D) recent order requiring face masks in public to the Holocaust. 

The cartoon, which was shared on Friday by the Anderson County Review, a small Kansas newspaper, depicted a woman wearing a mask with a Star of David emblazoned across it standing 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 read. 

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By Sunday, Dane Hicks, the publisher of the newspaper and the Anderson County Republican Party chairman, apologized for the cartoon's invocation of the Holocaust and said that he would remove it. The image no longer appears on the newspaper's Facebook page.

"After some heartfelt and educational conversation with Jewish leaders … I can acknowledge the imagery in my recent editorial cartoon describing state government overreach in Kansas with images of the Holocaust was deeply hurtful to members of a culture who’ve been dealt plenty of hurt throughout history — people to whom I never desired to be hurtful in the illustration of my point," Hicks said in a statement shared on Facebook

"It is not my intention to heap more grief onto this historical burden, and it’s apparent I previously lacked an adequate understanding of the severity of their experience and the pain of its images," he added. 

The apology followed condemnations from Kelly, the Kansas Democratic Party and other officials outside the state. Kelly said the cartoon amounted to "deeply offensive" anti-Semitic imagery and demanded it be taken down. 

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) also weighed in on the image, calling it "another disgusting display by ignorant Republicans who fail to understand that their propaganda is costing lives.”

The episode came as states begin to implement more aggressive measures to respond to a surge in coronavirus cases in parts of the U.S. As cases climbed in Kansas last week, Kelly issued an executive order requiring residents to wear face masks in public. 

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

The push for Americans to wear face masks has created tensions in various regions in the U.S. Hicks initially told The New York Times that he crafted the cartoon comparing Kelly's order to the Holocaust because it represented government overreach, adding that he intended "no slight" against 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.”

Hicks at first resisted requests to apologize and remove the image. However he said in his Facebook statement on Sunday that "it’s clear I should have chosen a less hurtful theme to convey the dire need for that vigilance."