Idaho state Rep. Heather Scott has suggested workers deemed “nonessential” during the COVID-19 pandemic are being treated like Jews during the Holocaust.
Scott, a Republican whose district includes Bonner County, compared Gov. Brad Little’s shutdown orders to Nazi Germany during an hourlong Zoom interview with Jess Fields, a Houston-based podcast host, that was posted online Thursday. She referred to the governor as “Little Hitler” and questioned his authority to decide who can and can’t continue working during the pandemic.
“I mean, that’s no different than Nazi Germany, where you had government telling people, ‘You are an essential worker or a nonessential worker,’ and the nonessential workers got put on a train,” Scott said.
Trains were used during the Holocaust to forcibly transport Jews and other victims to ghettos, forced labor camps and extermination camps.
Local human rights advocates called Scott’s remarks offensive.
“Mass murder and genocide is not the same thing as deciding which businesses should essentially stay open and which should stay closed,” Rabbi Tamar Malino of Spokane’s Temple Beth Shalom said.
Brenda Hammond, president of the Bonner County Human Rights Task Force, said in an email: “It makes my heart heavy to hear a comment from an elected official that shows such deep disregard and lack of respect for what the Jewish people experienced during the time of the Holocaust. It also shows an extreme ignorance of history.
“Her words will be especially hard for members of our community whose own relatives were put on those trains. Not to mention the few Holocaust survivors we are still privileged to have living among us.”
Scott did not respond to messages from The Spokesman-Review on Thursday. Instead, she took to Facebook to warn supporters of a forthcoming “hit piece.” She complained that “biased local and national media continue to twist and turn facts away from their original intent and into their ongoing war of hate towards conservatives and Americans in general.
“My videos and interviews are generating a lot of positive responses and people are waking up. My recent analogies are poignant and relative to our times. While human lives are certainly more valuable than a business, we cannot underestimate nor ignore that our businesses are the life blood of the citizens who own them, the communities they are in and to the customers they serve. Losing the former destroys the latter.”
Scott is no stranger to controversy. During a 2015 campaign rally, she posed with a Confederate flag. In 2017, she defended white nationalism on her Facebook page. Later that year, in an open legislative session, she accused another female lawmaker of offering sexual favors to gain a seat on a House committee. And she recently sponsored a bill to remove some requirements to report domestic and child abuse.
Scott and Bonner County Sheriff Darryl Wheeler, whom she praised during Thursday’s podcast interview, previously denounced Little’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, accusing him of infringing on civil liberties.
Wheeler shared a conspiracy theory on the sheriff’s office Facebook page, asserting that “globalist” public health officials are misleading the public and attempting to destroy small businesses.
Scott has repeatedly downplayed the dangers of the new coronavirus and referred to Little’s actions as “unconstitutional edicts.”
“I’m not a lawyer, but I checked with a constitutional lawyer, and absolutely he cannot, he cannot do that,” she said during the podcast interview.
Later, she suggested some kind of insurrection will force Little to rescind his shutdown orders, and she claimed others have begun comparing him to Adolf Hitler.
“You can’t take away people’s lives and property without compensation, and that’s exactly what he would be doing. I mean, they are already calling him Little Hitler – Gov. Little Hitler,” Scott said. “And so I think people will start educating others, and people will be more and more vocal until they will say, ‘Enough of this,’ and put the pressure – hopefully political pressure – on him. That’s what I would hope for.”
Tony Stewart, a founder of the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations – formed in the 1980s to oppose local hate groups like the Aryan Nations – also called Scott’s remarks offensive. He noted that governors of both parties have closed businesses and ordered people to stay home.
“We have the highest praise for Gov. Brad Little,” Stewart said. “What he’s done – like other governors have been doing – is trying to prevent death. And this has nothing to do with an ideology.”
Local journalism is essential.
The journalists of The Spokesman-Review are a part of the community. They live here. They work here. They care. You can help keep local journalism strong right now with your contribution. Thank you.
Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter
Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.