Jensen stands by comments comparing mask mandates to Nazi Germany

Candidate Dr. Scott Jensen addresses the audience
Republican gubernatorial candidate Dr. Scott Jensen addresses the audience during a debate with Gov. Tim Walz at Farm Fest in rural Morgan, Minn., on Aug. 3. It was the first in-person debate between the two candidates.
Jackson Forderer for MPR News

Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Jensen left a GOP media event Wednesday afternoon before reporters could ask him about his comments comparing government masking mandates during the COVID-19 pandemic to the rise of Nazi Germany in the 1930s.

Jensen originally made the comments back in April and a video of the remarks surfaced this week.

He stood by them on Tuesday in a video posted to Facebook, which he called a “point of clarification.”

“So when I make a comparison that says that I saw government policies intruding on American freedoms incrementally, one piece at a time, and compare that to what happened in the 1930s, I think it's a legitimate comparison,” Jensen said. “It may not strike your fancy — that's fine. But this is how I think, and you don't get to be my thought police person.”

Jensen’s running mate Matt Birk was asked whether the focus on the comments was a distraction to the campaign.

"We know the game. I've been a victim of it. Scott's been the victim of it for a long time,” Birk said. “You take a 10 second clips and then everybody — it's the age of outrage on Twitter."

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While Jensen didn't want to expand on the comments Wednesday, his DFL opponent, incumbent Gov. Tim Walz, did answer a question about them.

"The idea of using common sense public safety measures that saved lives as well as any state in the country, comparing that to a systematic killing of over 6 million individuals, it's just simply unacceptable," Walz told MPR News.

The website TC Jewfolk originally reported on Jensen's comments.

"The little things grew into something bigger. Then there was a night called Kristallnacht, the night of the breaking glass," Jensen said at the April event with the group Mask Off Minnesota. "Then there was the book burning, and it kept growing and growing, and a guy named Hitler kept growing in power. In a way, I think that's why you're here today, is you sense that something is happening, and it's growing little by little."

The website quoted the Anti-Defamation League saying that comparisons like Jensen’s are “generally not indications of antisemitic animus; however, they are often used to further a political agenda. Such references are outrageous and may be profoundly hurtful to Jews, many of whom lost family members or carry memories of the trauma suffered by their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents during the destruction of European Jewry.”