Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, who’s a member of two groups targeted for genocide by Nazi Germany — he’s gay and Jewish — had a strong and emotional response to a critic who likened stay-at-home orders to Nazi policies.
Polis, a Democrat, issued a statewide order to this effect March 25 due to the current health crisis; some localities in the state had done so already. That same day, Colorado House Minority Leader Patrick Neville, a Republican, went on a conservative radio station and criticized a stay-at-home order issued by a county health department, saying it would lead to a “Gestapo-like mentality,” a reference to Adolf Hitler’s secret police.
At a news conference Wednesday, a reporter questioned Polis about the remark, without mentioning Neville’s name. “As a Jewish American who lost family in the Holocaust, I’m offended by any comparison to Nazism,” the governor replied, according to The Denver Post. “We act to save lives — the exact opposite of the slaughter of 6 million Jews and many gypsies and Catholics and gays and lesbians and Russians and so many others.” Polis was choked up and “visibly shaken,” the Post notes.
The paper sought further comment from Neville, who said his choice of words was wrong but stood by the sentiment. “I should have said authoritarian, not Gestapo,” he said. “And I think authoritarian is still accurate.”
Neville added that he had spoken to Polis several times since March 25 and the governor had never mentioned the remark. “If he’s bringing it up now it’s because he’s trying to make political hay out of something that really was nothing,” the legislator said.
But Polis wasn’t the one who brought up the matter; he was responding to a question from Charles Ashby, a reporter for Grand Junction, Colo.’s Daily Sentinel. In his response, the governor also had strong words for those who defy stay-at-home orders.
“By not staying at home, by having parties, by congregating, you’re not sticking it to the government,” Polis said. “You’re not sticking it to Jared Polis. You’re sticking it to yourself, because you’re putting yourself and your loved ones in jeopardy, and you’re prolonging the economic pain and difficulties that your fellow Coloradans face.”
Ashby got some criticism for his question, and he responded via Twitter:
In a Friday column, Post political reporter Alex Furness, who noted he’d never seen Polis so upset, had this to say about the matter: “As a Jew … I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with drawing parallels between certain modern-day behaviors and Nazism. The problem is that way too often, the comparisons we hear are in no way apt.
“We can, and should, debate the pros and cons of the many government mandates handed down here since early March. But let’s be clear: The Nazis killed millions of people. Polis is tasked with trying to keep people alive in a state with a underresourced health care system and limited testing infrastructure.”