Republican nominee Hershel Walker, the former NFL player who is running for the U.S. Senate in Georgia, canceled a fundraiser on Wednesday after the host of the event was convicted of using a profile picture of a swastika made of vaccine syringes on social media.
Republican donor Bettina Sofia Viviano-Langlais, a filmmaker in Texas, was scheduled to host the fundraiser in Parker, Texas, this weekend, according to Atlanta Journal-Constitution, who first reported the story.
Viviano-Langlai’s Twitter account was deleted at the time of reporting, but a screenshot captured earlier shows the vaccine swastika logo, Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. The image has been used by opponents of vaccine mandates similar to the policy of Nazi repression and genocide of Jews – a comparison that has been widely condemned.
A spokesman for Walker told the paper: “This is clearly an anti-compulsory vaccination graphic. Herschel is unequivocally opposed to anti-Semitism and bigotry of any kind.”
The campaign later confirmed that the fundraiser was discontinued, CBS Atlanta affiliate WGCL reported.
Mallory Blount, spokeswoman for the Walker campaign, said in a statement that “the previously planned event has been canceled. Herschel is a strong friend of Israel and the Jewish community and opposes hatred and bigotry of all forms. Although the obvious intent behind the graphics was “To condemn the government’s vaccine mandate, the symbol used is very offensive and does not reflect the values of Herschel Walker or his campaign.”
Critics expressed outrage and disgust – and took issue with the campaign’s first response.
American Jewish Democratic Council tweeted that it is “utterly abominable – the Republicans proudly and openly show swastikas.”
Georgia’s Democratic Party’s Dan Gottlieb said a press release that “Herschel Walker defended a swastika, and interrupting a fundraiser does not change the fact that he did not condemn a hateful, anti-Semitic symbol.”
Walker’s campaign was officially launched in August and has already increased $ 3.7 million in his attempt to remove the Democratic incumbent, Senator Raphael Warnock. Former President Donald Trump encouraged Walker to enter the race. It is expected to be a tough and very expensive campaign, where the Cook Political Report rates the race as “lean democrat”.
Walker has refused to say whether he has been vaccinated or not.
Adam Brewster contributed to this report.