The Potluck

Scott Jensen likens COVID-19 public health policies to Kristallnacht, Nazism

By: - August 22, 2022 9:58 am

Minnesota gubernatorial candidate Scott Jensen speaks as supporters cheer behind him at an Apple Valley rally in May. Photo by Nicole Neri/Minnesota Reformer.

Republican nominee for governor Scott Jensen is set to appear Tuesday at a Republican Jewish Coalition event. 

He may want to clarify to the group some remarks he made in April in which he off-handedly compared recent public health policies to Hitler’s rise. 

Jensen was speaking to a group called MaskOffMN, which calls the government’s response to COVID-19 “a fraud.” The group also alleges the COVID-19 vaccines are not proven safe nor effective and warns that “A Peacetime Emergency could still be reinstated in Minnesota at any time, with all its mask mandates, lockdowns, and tyranny.”

Jensen was among like-minded people at the event — as of earlier this year Jensen was not vaccinated and once referred to COVID-19 as a “mild four day respiratory illness.”

Jensen sought to explain why it was important to ask questions of our government, and he seemed to imply that groups like MaskOffMN that resist government public health policies would help prevent a repeat of Nazism. 

“If you look at the 1930’s and you look at it carefully, we could see something’s happening. Little things that people chose to push aside. ‘It’s going to be okay.’ And then the little things grew into something bigger. Then there was a night called Kristallnacht. The night of the breaking glass,” said Jensen, whose comments were also reported Monday by TCJewfolk

He’s referring to two nights in November 1938 when violent mobs destroyed synagogues and plundered Jewish homes and businesses. 

Jensen traced more history: “Then there was the book burning, and it kept growing and growing, and a guy named Hitler kept growing in power, and World War II came about.” 

He concluded by telling the group, which was meeting at Tobies in Hinckley, that they are a bulwark: “Well, in a way, I think that’s why you’re here today. You sense that something’s happening, and it’s growing little by little.”

Officials from Jensen’s campaign and the Republican Jewish Coalition did not immediately respond to the Reformer’s requests for comment.

Ethan Roberts, the director of government affairs for the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas, said in an email to the Reformer, “Such comparisons are extremely wrong for all the reasons we’ve stated in the past.” 

(The inappropriate comparisons have been a staple of pandemic-era right wing discourse.) 

In April of 2020, after protestors compared Gov. Tim Walz to Hitler, the JCRC said, “Contemporary comparisons to Nazis, coming from anywhere on the political spectrum, are almost always historically inaccurate, insult the memory of the Holocaust’s victims and survivors, and are deeply hurtful to most Jews and others whose communities were victimized.” 

Roberts concluded: “We invite Dr. Jensen to meet with the JCRC to discuss why such comparisons are so damaging.”

Editor-in-Chief Patrick Coolican contributed to this report.

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Michelle Griffith
Michelle Griffith

Michelle Griffith covers Minnesota politics and policy for the Reformer, with a focus on marginalized communities. Most recently she was a reporter with The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead in North Dakota where she covered state and local government and Indigenous issues.