A Kansas paper, The Anderson County Review, whose publisher is a county Republican politician, posted a cartoon on its Facebook page drawing similarities between the state governor's order to wear face masks in public and the murder of Jews by Nazis during World War Two.
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 vehicle.
"Put on your mask ... and step onto the cattle vehicle", reads a caption on the cartoon, which was posted Friday, the same day an order by Kelly went into effect requiring Kansans to wear masks in public spaces and in places where social distancing is not possible.
The newspaper posted the cartoon on Friday, the day Kelly's mask order took effect. A blog post by Hicks on Saturday defending it also drew critical responses.
According to the Kansas Newspaper, Hicks's newspaper is located in the Garnett Anderson County seat approximately 65 miles southwest of Kansas City and has a circulation of about 2,100. As of early Monday, Kansas has recorded more than 16,000 cases and 283 deaths.
The cartoon prompted swift rebuke from Kelly, who issued a statement calling it "anti-Semitic" and "deeply offensive" and calling on Hicks to "remove it immediately".
Rabbi Moti Rieber, the executive director of Kansas Interfaith Action, in an interview with the AP news agency said it was "incoherent" to equate an action created to save lives with mass murder.
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Finally, he said, putting the Star of David on Kelly's mask was antisemitic because it implies "nefarious Jews" are behind her actions.
Critics of the cartoon demanded that the Republican Party and Republican Party legislative leaders repudiate the cartoon and Hicks.
The Anderson County Review could not be reached for comment on Sunday.
The governor issued the mask order because of resurgence in reported coronavirus cases that increased the state's total to almost 16,000 as of Friday, when Kansas finished its worst two-week spike since the pandemic began. The state has to date reported 277 coronavirus-related deaths. The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.
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.
Kelly lifted statewide restrictions on businesses and public gatherings on 26 May, after weeks of criticism from the Republican-controlled state legislature. "While it's disappointing to see, on July Fourth of all days, I know that Mr. Hicks' views are not shared by the people of Anderson County nor Kansas as a whole". It has about 7,900 residents in a conservative swath of eastern Kansas, and President Donald Trump carried it with almost 73% of the vote in 2016.
The state health department has reported only four coronavirus cases for Anderson County, all of them since May 8.
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