Gov. Jared Polis grew tearful as he responded Wednesday to a top Republican official comparing stay-at-home orders to the actions of the Gestapo, the secret police of Nazi Germany and European countries under Nazi occupation during World War II.
“As a Jewish American who lost family in the Holocaust, I’m offended by any comparison to Nazism. 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,” said the governor, visibly shaken.
Polis, a Democrat elected in 2018, is Colorado’s first Jewish governor, and was the first openly gay man elected governor in any U.S. state.
— The Denver Post (@denverpost) April 15, 2020
On March 25, the same day Polis issued a statewide stay-at-home order that remains in effect through at least April 26, Colorado House Minority Leader Patrick Neville, R-Castle Rock, said on a conservative radio program that such governmental orders lead to a “Gestapo-like mentality,” as first reported by 9News.
Reached by phone Wednesday afternoon, Neville declined to apologize for his remarks, but did say he chose his words poorly.
“I should have said authoritarian, not Gestapo,” Neville said. “And I think authoritarian is still accurate.”
Neville added he and Polis “have talked numerous times since making that remark, and he never brought it up. If he’s bringing it up now it’s because he’s trying to make political hay out of something that really was nothing.”
Polis was not, in fact, the one to raise the Gestapo comment on Wednesday. He was prompted by a question from a reporter with the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel.
“We’re hearing a lot of reports around here,” the reporter said, “and I know I’ve seen some stuff going on statewide, about neighbors reporting on other neighbors for not following the orders, seeing a lot of rebellion out here against your orders, which have been called tyrannical, against local health department orders, being equated to Nazism. How do you react to that? What do you say to those people who are clearly getting frustrated with this stay-at-home order?”
After commenting on the comparison to Nazism, Polis regained his composure and added: “That being said, we know that these steps are difficult, and it’s not a contest to see what you can get away with. It’s a contest to see how well you can stay at home. By not staying at home, by having parties, by congregating, you’re not sticking it to the government. 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.
“Now’s the time for us to act with unity, to act together, to be able to do the best that we can to stay at home except when absolutely necessary so that we can open up sooner than later, so that we can have more freedom quicker rather than later, and so that we can create a sustainable way for us to get by as a state and as a country.”
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