A Washington state lawmaker wore a yellow Star of David — a Holocaust-era symbol that Nazis forced onto Jews — while voicing his opposition to COVID-19 vaccinations during a speech last weekend.
The Seattle Times first reported Wednesday that Washington State Rep. Jim Walsh (R) wore the yellow Star of David as he implored attendees at an event organized by the conservative group “Washingtonians for Change” to push back against the COVID-19 vaccine and public health mandates.
In a video of Walsh’s speech posted to his Facebook account, the state lawmaker is seen wearing a pink button-up shirt with a Star of David on his chest, while airing his grievances towards COVID-19 restrictions.
Walsh did not acknowledge the Holocaust-era symbol on his chest, nor explicitly mention Nazis, Hitler or the Holocaust, during his speech.
However, Walsh defended wearing the infamous star symbol when coming under fire for the move in the comments section below the video he posted to Facebook.
“It’s an echo from history,” Walsh wrote. “In the current context, we’re all Jews.”
Washington state nor the federal government have imposed COVID-19 vaccine requirements, but the state’s Department of Labor and Industries requires employers to verify employee vaccination status prior to lifting mask requirements in their workplaces.
Walsh further dug his heels into defending himself in an interview with the Seattle Times on Tuesday.
Walsh claimed to the Times that another attendee of the event gave him the Star of David, and that most attendees were also wearing the Holocaust era symbol. Walsh described the organizers behind the event as “deeply concerned about vaccine passports and vaccine segregation.”
Walsh then said he was taking a cue from the widely-shared but debunked story of Danish people wearing the yellow star to show solidarity with Jews during the Nazi occupation of Denmark.
Walsh stood by his vehement opposition to the COVID-19 vaccine, telling the newspaper that he won’t disclose publicly whether he is vaccinated, and somehow comparing his view to the film “Spartacus,” in which former slaves refused to identify the title character to a Roman general amid facing threat of crucifixion.
Additionally, Walsh said he views the treatment of unvaccinated people to the Supreme Court’s 1896 decision in Plessy v. Ferguson, which upheld “separate but equal” racial segregation laws targeting African Americans.
Walsh’s office and the Washington state GOP did not immediately respond to TPM’s request for comment.
“Washingtonians for Change” declined to provide comment to TPM.
Walsh, however, ultimately expressed remorse over his actions after drawing backlash from his legislative colleagues on both sides of the aisle
Hours after Walsh came under fire following the Times’ report on his speech over the weekend, Walsh said he was “terribly sorry” for wearing the Holocaust era symbol during an interview on a conservative radio talk show on Wednesday night.
Appearing on KTTH AM 70 in a show hosted by Jason Rantz, who touts himself as “Seattle’s leading conservative commentator,” Walsh conceded that “this gesture went too far.”
“It was inappropriate and offensive. I’m terribly sorry that it happened and that I was a part of it,” Walsh told Rantz, according to the KTTH.
Walsh claimed that his attempt to warn against “horrible outcomes” from supposed government overreach was “just a dumb idea and it was not effective.”
Walsh is not the first lawmaker to come out against measures intended to reduce the spread of COVID-19 by painting them as an infringement of personal freedoms.
In addition to comparing House mask mandates to the Holocaust last month, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) likened a Tennessee supermarket chain’s decision to include a logo on the name badges of vaccinated employees to the Nazi practice of labeling Jews with Star of David badges.
“Vaccinated employees get a vaccination logo just like the Nazi’s forced Jewish people to wear a gold star,” she wrote on Twitter. The post linked to an article about a Tennessee supermarket chain’s decision.
Greene finally apologized for “offensive” comments after she visited the Holocaust museum earlier this month as Democrats threatened to censure her over the offensive comparison.
The misappropriation of Holocaust-era symbols to vaccinations has also been a ploy of anti-vaccine protesters, who feel that their cause has been emboldened as more Americans receive vaccinations against COVID-19.
Earlier this year, a hat shop in Nashville, Tennessee faced backlash after advertising an anti-vaccine yellow star reminiscent of the Star of David. The hat shop owner later apologized after small protests outside of the shop and the hat maker Stetson announced that it was pulling its products from the store.