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DeWine condemns posts by Ohio state senator and wife comparing Acton statement to rules in Nazi Germany

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine said comments comparing a statement made by Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton to rules from Nazi Germany must be condemned.
A photo of Sen. Andrew Brenner from his state website.

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine said comments from a state senator and his wife comparing a statement made by Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton to rules from Nazi Germany must be condemned.

The initial post on Facebook came from the wife of Sen. Andrew Brenner (R-Powell), Sara Brenner, to which the senator reportedly commented on the post “We won’t allow that to happen in Ohio.”

Acton, who is Jewish, was asked a question on Tuesday during a press conference about the status of antibody tests for COVID-19 and how long people stay immune after having a confirmed case.

“A couple weeks ago, the big buzz was having a test that can show you had it. In some countries, they’re looking at certificates to say that and then that you were immune and therefore kind of able to go about your business. I think that would be a dream thing if we can get to something like that,” Acton said.

Acton said no one really knows about the immunity and Ohio does not have many of the antibody tests yet.

Acton said she is hoping Ohio gets some tests this week to begin a study about the antibody testing.

According to the Columbus Dispatch, and the Ohio Capital Journal, Sara Brenner said in a now-deleted Facebook post from Tuesday evening, “With a German accent, in your head say ‘show me your papers’...This is downright scary! You don’t issue people certificates to be able to function outside their home. ... This actually feels like Hitler’s Germany where you had to have blonde hair and blue eyes to be able to function anywhere, and you were damned otherwise. When are people going to say enough is enough?”

The text was reportedly posted along with a picture of Acton and an adjusted version of her quote.

On Wednesday, Sarah Brenner posted the following statement on Facebook:

“Due to a disgusting twisting of what I said yesterday regarding Dr. Acton's ‘carry a certificate’ comment, I have removed my post regarding it. It's unfortunate that some would turn what I said into comments that they were never intended to be. Many of us are very upset with the policies being put forth in Ohio right now. However, disagreement with my views on the issues should never be used as a catalyst to attack someone's faith, ethnicity or race, as has been done here. Those who thought I made anti-semitic comments are the same people who say I would be a racist for scrutinizing Barack Obama. It's a dog whistle, and it's a sad day when that's the status of the first amendment in America.”

DeWine posted the following statement on social media Wednesday night:

“I am deeply concerned by the anti-Semitic sign at Ohio’s Statehouse during a recent protest rally. The sign was vile and disgusting. While even disgusting speech is constitutionally protected, it still demands condemnation. The recent Internet post by Ohio State Senator Andrew Brenner, likening Ohio’s Department of Health Director’s actions to fight the coronavirus to those taken by the Nazis in Germany during World War II, must also be condemned. The comments showed a complete lack of understanding of the Holocaust -- made even more offensive by posting on Holocaust Memorial Day -- and was a slur on a good, compassionate, and honorable person who has worked non-stop to save lives and protect her fellow citizens. Any complaints about the policy of this administration need to be directed at me. I am the office holder, and I appointed the Director. Ultimately, I am responsible for the decisions in regard to the coronavirus. The buck stops with me.”

Sen. Brenner issued a statement Wednesday night:

“Today, it was reported in an online news outlet that I said something inappropriate and inflammatory on social media. What I actually said was not the same as what is being reported. I would never, ever say what I am accused of saying. I understand that while people may differ on policy issues, the manner in which it was reported was upsetting, inflammatory and hurtful. I apologize to Dr. Acton, because I’m sure she was offended by the comments as they were reported. I have also spoken with leaders from Ohio’s Jewish community, for whom I have great respect, and I appreciate the understanding and support I have received. I am confident that Governor DeWine and Dr. Acton have Ohio’s best interests in mind, and I appreciate his hard work and efforts in finding a responsible path forward. This is a time for us to work together, and I am committed to doing so for all Ohioans."

Ohio Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Medina) issued a statement saying, “I along with the senate Republican caucus strongly disapprove of these comments and believe that any such comparisons or analogies are not only absurd but also harmful. This is a time for cooperation, not inflammatory and overblown rhetoric.”

On Wednesday during the press briefing, Acton replied to a question about her answer from Tuesday, saying she was referring to the test result paperwork in a business context.

“One of the things that had come before us as we were really trying to look at ways businesses could reopen and we could support the economy. About two weeks ago, one of the things that was really gaining a lot of traction was the ability to do antibody testing - which means not the testing that says you have the disease but the testing that says you had it.”

She continued to say that she thinks the dream is knowing if people have had the disease, recovered and have antibodies that will protect you.

“So one of the business solutions that was being hoped for was that if people really did have immunity, that they could have proof of that. By proof of that, it would be a doctor’s note or a record that they had taken the test and they’d have test results,” she said.

Acton said it would have to be a policy discussion that would be worth talking about.

DeWine said they are looking to give individuals as much information as possible about their medical situation to make their own choices.

On Thursday, Brenner issued another statement saying, "I have always had a strong relationship with the Jewish Community, and firmly believe using the holocaust as an analogy or comparison for a public policy debate is offensive and demeans the tremendous sacrifices and atrocities Jews endured during World War II. I apologize for statements that were tied to my social media that were hurtful.”

The Facebook posts came after Cleveland.com reported some Ohio protesters used anti-Semitic symbolism on signs over the weekend.

DeWine called the signs vile and disgusting and has no place in any public discussion.

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