Walz calls on Jensen to apologize for likening COVID-19 restrictions to Nazi Germany

A man in a suit gestures as others look on
Gov. Tim Walz and several DFL lawmakers called on Republican candidate Scott Jensen to apologize for remarks he made comparing COVID-19 mask mandates to the rise of Nazi Germany.
Mark Zdechlik | MPR News

Flanked by several DFL legislators at the Minnesota Capitol Friday, DFL Gov. Tim Walz said his Republican opponent Scott Jensen's comments likening COVID-19 restrictions to the rise of Nazi Germany fit a pattern of "hateful and dangerous" rhetoric.

Earlier this week Jensen did not back down from comments that were caught on video in April when he compared COVID-19 mask mandates to an erosion of individual rights in 1930s Germany that led to the Nazi Party taking power. 

“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 in a video he posted to Facebook Tuesday. “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.”

Walz said Jensen should take up Jewish community leaders' offers to help him understand why his comparisons are so offensive.

"They were not attempting to be ‘thought police.’ They were attempting to be experts and advise,” Walz said. “And if you're asking to be the governor of Minnesota, every single day, you are going to have experts advise you, and many times they may not align with your preconceived notions."

At a news conference with Walz, state Rep. Frank Hornstein, DFL-Minneapolis, said he was a child of holocaust survivors, and that his grandparents were murdered by the Nazis.

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"When my family's experience and those of 6 million mostly Jewish people are trivialized and minimized this desecrates their memory and desecrates proper memorialization of this, one of the most heinous events in human history,” Hornstein said, adding. “That's why we stand together to condemn this in the strongest possible terms. The last thing we need in Minnesota, in the country right now, is this level of extremism and polarization, which these comments fuel."

While campaigning Friday at the Minnesota State Fair, Jensen was asked about a possible apology. 

"Is Governor Walz going to apologize for what he did to our kids' education? Is he going to apologize for the fact that people have been getting shot in their neighborhoods? Is he going to apologize to the fact that he drove the gallon of gas upwards? When is he going to apologize?” Jensen responded. “I’ve got an idea for him. If he wants to apologize to me, or if he wants me to apologize to him, why don't we have a damn debate?"

Walz debated Jensen earlier this month at Farmfest and has said he will debate Jensen again. He declined an invitation from MPR News to debate Jensen at the State Fair.