Alaskan State Representative Ben Carpenter compared the coronavirus screening measures required by the state Capitol building for all returning lawmakers to Nazi Germany, Anchorage Daily News reported on Friday. When Alaskan lawmakers return to the state capitol building on Monday, they will be required to wear stickers that indicate that they have been screened for coronavirus and do not have symptoms.
Carpenter expressed his displeasure at being required to wear a sticker in an email to 40 of his fellow legislators.
“How about an armband that won’t fall off like a sticker will?” questioned Carpenter in the email.
“If my sticker falls off, do I get a new one, or do I get public shaming too? Are the stickers available as a yellow Star of David?”
Carpenter’s comments were immediately criticized by some of his colleagues, according to Anchorage Daily News. Two members of the Alaskan House, who are both Jewish, emailed Carpenter back, condemning his remarks.
Rep. Grier Hopkins, a Democrat in the House called his comments “disgusting” and asked Carpenter to “keep your Holocaust jokes to yourself.”
Rep. Andy Josephson, another House Democrat, compared the stickers to needing a boarding pass to get through security at the airport and made it clear that it was nothing like being singled out to be “shipped to a concentration camp.”
However, not all of Carpenter’s colleagues disagreed with him, per Anchorage Daily News. Another Republican legislator, Sarah Vance, said that lawmakers should not be “labeled as non compliant” for not wanting to wear the sticker proving they’d passed a health screening. She called the sticker a “badge of compliance.”
Put on the spot for that statement, which goes on from what’s quoted here, Alaska state rep Ben Carpenter defended himself by saying, “I certainly have no ill will toward the Jewish nation and the Jewish people in our country.” Like he doesn’t think Jewish people are Americans. https://t.co/RjANEkPh0O
— Ron Hogan (@RonHogan) May 16, 2020
In a phone interview with Anchorage Daily News, Carpenter said that it was not his intention to upset people. He insisted that he does not have any issues with the Jewish faith or Jewish people. Carpenter emphasized that his comments were meant to illustrate what he believes in an overreaction to the coronavirus pandemic by Alaskan officials. He pointed out that only 10 people have died from COVID-19 in Alaska, which is much lower than their annual death rate from the flu.
Carpenter told Anchorage Daily News that he believes Alaska is no longer in danger from the coronavirus pandemic. He went on to say that he believes Alaska is in more danger from the shutdown of the economy than the virus. Carpenter admitted that some people may get sick and die if they reopen the economy, but “our way of life will continue.” The state representative stressed that because of the restrictions the state is putting on people “our way of life is in jeopardy.”
According to Anchorage Daily News, Carpenter said he was worried about the precedent being set by forcing people to comply with screening measures. He pondered whether “COVID-19 patients will be rounded up and taken somewhere,” again alluding to Nazi Germany. Carpenter pointed out that Nazi Germany didn’t start with concentration camps, it started with fear.
Rep. Vance clarified that she agreed with Carpenter that Alaskan officials were overreacting to the pandemic, but said that she would not respond to his comparisons to Nazi Germany.
State House Minority Leader Lance Pruitt later told Anchorage Daily News that Carpenter’s comments were not appropriate and that “he should apologize.”