Jewish Group Calls on Herschel Walker to Condemn Antisemitic Symbols After Event Canceled

Georgia Republican U.S. Senate candidate Herschel Walker canceled an upcoming Texas fundraiser on Wednesday after details emerged that the event's host used an anti-vaccine symbol that contained a swastika as her Twitter profile picture.

A head of the Atlanta chapter of the American Jewish Committee believed scrapping the event isn't enough and called on Walker, who has yet to comment on the matter, to condemn the hateful imagery.

"A swastika is a symbol of hate," Dov Wilker, regional director of the group, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "Walker may have canceled his fundraiser after a sponsor associated with the event displayed the antisemitic symbol proudly, but he must condemn Holocaust and COVID health policies comparisons immediately."

Hershel Walker
Former NFL star Hershel Walker's campaign for Senate is facing controversy due to a recent event organized by someone who once used antisemitic imagery online. In this screenshot from the RNC’s livestream of the 2020 Republican National Convention, Walker addresses the virtual convention on August 24, 2020. Photo Courtesy of the Committee on Arrangements for the 2020 Republican National Committee via Getty Images

The controversial symbol was a picture of a swastika made out of syringes and was used as a protest against the COVID-19 vaccine. Movie producer Bettina Sofia Viviano-Langlais, who was set to host the fundraiser at her home in suburban Dallas on Saturday, had recently displayed the illustration as her Twitter profile picture. The image was removed from the profile Wednesday morning following press reports of its existence before her account was deleted altogether.

During a Wednesday appearance on Fox News, Walker didn't discuss the controversy with host Sean Hannity. At first, his campaign also appeared to deny the symbol was a swastika, with a spokesperson quoted in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution as saying it was "clearly an anti-mandatory vaccination graphic. Herschel unequivocally opposes antisemitism and bigotry of all kinds."

Later, a spokesperson for Walker's campaign released a fuller statement that further distanced the candidate from the symbol and stated unequivocally that he opposes such images.

"Herschel is a strong friend of Israel and the Jewish community and opposes hatred and bigotry of all forms," spokesperson Mallory Blount said. "Despite the fact that the apparent intent behind the graphic was to condemn government vaccine mandates, the symbol used is very offensive and does not reflect the values of Herschel Walker or his campaign."

The Georgia Democratic Party addressed the controversy in their own statement, with spokesperson Dan Gottlieb saying Walker "defended a swastika, and canceling a fundraiser does not change the fact that he failed to condemn a hateful, antisemitic symbol."

Holocaust-era images have been used throughout the COVID-19 pandemic as a symbol of protest against vaccine mandates throughout the U.S. and other countries. Along with the swastika, gold stars—similar to the ones Nazis forced Jewish people to wear as identifiers—have also been appropriated. Politicians, including Georgia Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, have compared mask and vaccine mandates to anti-Jewish laws in Nazi Germany. (Greene later apologized for the comparisons.)

Such parallels being drawn between the Holocaust and COVID-19 mandates have been widely condemned by Jewish groups like the Anti-Defamation League, who also commented on Walker.

"Those linking the atrocities committed by the Nazis to modern-day public health policies must retract their shameless comparisons, take responsibility, and cease their exploitation of Jewish suffering as a political tactic," Allison Padilla-Goodman, vice president of the southern division of the Anti-Defamation League, said in a statement. "We're glad to see the fundraiser was canceled, and the behaviors of the host were denounced as offensive."

Walker, a Heisman Trophy winner in college and a star in the NFL who enjoyed his greatest success with the Dallas Cowboys, is running for the Republican nomination to challenge Democrat Raphael Warnock for his Georgia Senate seat. Walker has been endorsed by former President Donald Trump.

Newsweek contacted Walker's campaign for further comment but did not hear back in time for publication.