(FOX 9) - Republican candidate for Minnesota governor Dr. Scott Jensen defended his comparison of COVID-19 restrictions to the rise of Hitler after he faced scrutiny from Jewish advocacy groups this week.
The comparison, which Jensen made this past spring, made headlines after they were highlighted by local Jewish blog TC Jewfolk.
In an address at an anti-mandate event by Mask Off Minnesota, Jensen compared mandates to control the spread of COVID-19 to Hitler's rise to power during World War II.
"Little things grew into something bigger," Jensen said. "Then there was a night called Kristallnacht. The night of the breaking glass. Then there was the book burning, and it kept growing and growing, and a guy named Hitler kept growing in power."
Some advocates felt the remarks were insensitive and inappropriate. In a Facebook video, Jensen rejected the criticism, saying the comparison was legitimate.
"I was making a comparison between the incremental change that frequently occurs, that is often times missed by the people living through it," said Jensen.
"When I make a comparison that I saw government policies intruding on American freedoms, incrementally, one piece at a time and compare that to the 1930s," Jensen added. "I think it's a legitimate comparison. It might not strike your fancy, that's fine. But this is how I think, and you don't get to be my thought police person."
In a statement Tuesday evening, Jacob Millner with the American Jewish Committee says Jensen's remarks were "disappointing."
"It is just as disappointing that Tuesday he said it was a legitimate comparison, it is not," wrote Millner in a statement. "To equate a public health emergency with Kristallnacht, a terror spree in Germany that destroyed Jewish homes, businesses, and synagogues, is not a legitimate comparison. We call upon Jensen to refrain from further Holocaust comparisons. Instead, he should seek to better understand the severity of the Holocaust and realize there is no comparison to the horror it inflicted on millions of innocent people."
Jensen was scheduled to speak Tuesday night as part of a candidates forum being put on by the Republican Jewish Coalition. It's unclear if he planned to further address those comments at the forum.