Oklahoma GOP leader was rebuked for doubling down on his comparison of vaccine mandates to gold stars worn by Jewish people during the Holocaust

In this Friday, April 12, 2013 file photo, Oklahoma state Rep. John Bennett, R-Salisaw, speaks during a news conference in Oklahoma City.
In this Friday, April 12, 2013 file photo, Oklahoma state Rep. John Bennett, R-Salisaw, speaks during a news conference in Oklahoma City. Sue Ogrocki, File/AP
  • An Oklahoma GOP leader was rebuked for comparing vaccine mandates to Nazi-mandated yellow stars.
  • Despite the backlash, Oklahoma Republican Party chairman John Bennett doubled down on his remarks.
  • In May, Marjorie Taylor Greene also likened proof-of-vaccination to being discriminated against.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A GOP leader from Oklahoma doubled down on his comparison between vaccine mandates and gold stars forcibly worn by Jewish people during the Holocaust.

John Bennett, the chairman of the Oklahoma Republican Party, made the shocking comparison last Friday, posting a picture of the yellow Star of David with “Unvaccinated” written across the top.

“Those who don’t KNOW history, are DOOMED to repeat it,” the photo read, which was posted to the official Facebook account of the Oklahoma Republican Party on Friday.

The post called on Oklahoma Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell to call a special session to prohibit private employers from imposing vaccine mandates for employees.

GOP national committeeman Steve Curry told the local news outlet KOCO-TV that Bennett is the only person who has access to the Facebook page.

The post was swiftly condemned by other state leaders serving on the Oklahoma Republican Party. On Saturday, Curry, co-chair Tommy Hicks Jr.,and chairwoman Ronna McDaniel issued a joint statement calling the comparison “absurd.”

“We three members find that this post is not only absurd in its attempt to compare the government act to control the pandemic with the treatment of Jews in Nazi Germany but also terribly disrespectful to the memories of those who lost their lives to that horrible purge,” the statement said.

Other top Republican politicians in the state – including Pinnell, US Sens. Jim Inhofe and James Lankford, US Rep. Markwayne Mullin, Greg Treat, Oklahoma Senate President Pro Tempore, and Oklahoma House Speaker Charles McCall – denounced the Friday post.

“It is irresponsible and wrong to compare an effective vaccine – developed by President Trump’s Operation Warp Speed – to the horrors of the Holocaust,” the joint statement said, citing the KOCO-TV report. “People should have the liberty to choose if they take the vaccine, but we should never compare the unvaccinated to the victims of the Holocaust.”

Roberta Clark, executive director of the Jewish Federation, also slammed Bennett’s remarks, saying it was “ill-informed and very inappropriate.”

“To compare the actions taken by Nazi Germany to a pubic health discussion is ill-informed and very inappropriate. And it’s sad and ironic that anyone would draw an analogy from the largest recorded genocide in the 20th Century with public health attempts to actually save lives,” Clark told KOCO 5 News.

Despite the backlash, Bennett doubled down on the comparison in a nearly seven-minute video posted on Sunday, saying “It’s not about the star. It’s about a totalitarian government” pushing Americans to get vaccinated.

The Nazis “gave [Jews] a star to put on, and they couldn’t go to the grocery store, they couldn’t go out in public, they couldn’t do anything without having that star on their shirt,” Bennett said during the video. “Take away the star and add a vaccine passport.”

Representatives for the Oklahoma Republican Party did not immediately return Insider’s request for comment on the video posted by Bennett.

Bennett wasn’t the first Republican to liken vaccination badges to Nazi-mandated yellow stars. In May, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia also made the comparison to critique a local grocery store’s policies.

“Vaccinated employees get a vaccination logo just like the Nazi’s forced Jewish people to wear a gold star,” Greene wrote in a tweet. “Vaccine passports & mask mandates create discrimination against unvaxxed people who trust their immune systems to a virus that is 99% survivable.”

The Auschwitz‑Birkenau Memorial and State Museum on Tuesday later condemned Greene’s remarks, saying using the “tragedy of Jews” during the Holocaust to criticize public health measures is “a sad symptom of moral and intellectual decline.”