Kansas newspaper's post equates mask mandate with Holocaust

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Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly answers questions from reporters about the coronavirus pandemic after a meeting with legislative leaders, Thursday, July 2, 2020, at the Statehouse in Topeka, Kan. Kelly has issued an order to require people to wear masks in public and at their workplaces. (AP Photo/John Hanna)

TOPEKA, Kan. – A weekly Kansas newspaper whose publisher is a county Republican Party chairman posted a cartoon on its Facebook page likening the Democratic governor's order requiring people to wear masks in public to the roundup and murder of millions of Jews during the Holocaust.

The cartoon on the Anderson County Review's Facebook page depicts Gov. Laura Kelly wearing a mask with a Jewish Star of David on it, next to a drawing of people being loaded onto train cars. Its caption is, “Lockdown Laura says: Put on your mask ... and step onto the cattle car.”

The newspaper posted the cartoon on Friday, the day that Kelly's mask order aimed at stemming the spread of the coronavirus took effect. It's drawn several hundred comments, many of them strongly critical. Dane Hicks, the paper’s owner and publisher, said in an email to The Associated Press that he plans to publish the cartoon in the newspaper’s next edition Thursday.

Kelly, who is Catholic, issued a statement saying, “Mr. Hicks’ decision to publish anti-Semitic imagery is deeply offensive and he should remove it immediately.”

But Hicks said in an email that political cartoons are “gross over-caricatures designed to provoke debate” and “fodder for the marketplace of ideas.”

“The topic here is the governmental overreach which has been the hallmark of Governor Kelly’s administration,” he said.

As for the cartoon's reference to the Holocaust, Hicks said critics of President Donald Trump have compared him to Adolf Hitler, and, “I certainly have more evidence of that kind of totalitarianism in Kelly’s actions, in an editorial cartoon sort of way, than Trump’s critics do, yet they persist in it daily."

Hicks' newspaper is based in the Anderson County seat of Garnett, about 65 miles (105 kilometers) southwest of Kansas City and has a circulation of about 2,100, according to the Kansas Press Association.