ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia Republican U.S. Senate candidate Herschel Walker has called off a fundraiser in Texas because an organizer was displaying a swastika made of syringes in her social media profile to protest mandatory COVID-19 vaccination.
The Walker campaign said Wednesday that it had canceled the event, which had been scheduled for Saturday in suburban Dallas at the home of Bettina Sofia Viviano-Langlais.
“Herschel is a strong friend of Israel and the Jewish community and opposes hatred and bigotry of all forms,” campaign 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 campaign had earlier denied that the symbol was a swastika.
“Herschel Walker defended a swastika, and canceling a fundraiser does not change the fact that he failed to condemn a hateful, anti-Semitic symbol.” Georgia Democratic Party spokesperson Dan Gottlieb said in a statement.
Former President Donald Trump urged the football great and his longtime friend to enter the race for the Republican nomination against Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock in 2022. Walker is running against three other Republicans, including Georgia state Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black.
The fundraiser required a $500 donation to get in and $5,800 for a VIP private reception. The Walker campaign said Monday that it had raised $3.7 million in the quarter that ended Sept. 30.
Viviano-Langlais has been a movie producer and outspoken opponent of mandatory mask and vaccines. Published accounts indicate Viviano-Langlais hosted a “Texas is Now Open” mask burning at her house in Parker, Texas, in conjunction with the GOP-leaning Dallas Jewish Conservatives in March after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott lifted the state’s mask mandate
The syringe swastika has appeared in protests against vaccine mandates in other parts of the United States and world. Jewish groups have condemned the symbol.
Allison Padilla-Goodman, vice president of the southern division of the Anti-Defamation League, said the comparison of vaccines to Nazism has become “a common and callous tool for political gain.”
“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,” Padilla-Goodman said in a statement. “We’re glad to see the fundraiser was canceled, and the behaviors of the host were denounced as offensive.”