A weekly Kansas newspaper is in hot water after its publisher, a county Republican Party chairman, posted a cartoon on the paper’s Facebook page that appeared to equate the Democratic governor’s mask order with the Holocaust.

The cartoon, posted Friday on the Anderson County Review’s Facebook page, depicts Gov. Laura Kelly wearing a mask with a Jewish Star of David on it, next to a drawing of people being loaded onto train cars. Its caption is, “Lockdown Laura says: Put on your mask … and step onto the cattle car.”

The Facebook post coincided with the day Kelly’s mask order, aimed at stemming the spread of the coronavirus, took effect. The post has since garnered more than 3,000 comments and nearly 1,000 shares.

The Anderson County Review could not be reached for comment Sunday. In an email to The Associated Press, Dane Hicks, the paper’s owner and publisher, said he plans to publish the cartoon in the newspaper’s next edition on Tuesday.

Kelly, who is Catholic, issued a statement saying, “Mr. Hicks’ decision to publish anti-Semitic imagery is deeply offensive and he should remove it immediately.”

But Hicks said that political cartoons are “gross over-caricatures designed to provoke debate” and “fodder for the marketplace of ideas.”

“The topic here is the governmental overreach which has been the hallmark of Governor Kelly’s administration,” he said.

As for the cartoon’s reference to the Holocaust, Hicks noted that critics of President Trump have repeatedly compared him to Adolf Hitler, and, “I certainly have more evidence of that kind of totalitarianism in Kelly’s actions, in an editorial cartoon sort of way, than Trump’s critics do, yet they persist in it daily.”

Hicks’ newspaper is based in the Anderson County seat of Garnett, about 65 miles southwest of Kansas City and has a circulation of about 2,100, according to the Kansas Press Association.

Hicks also is Anderson County’s GOP chairman. Kansas Republican Party Chairman Michael Kuckelman said in a text that posting the cartoon is “inappropriate.”

But Kuckelman, also an attorney, added, “it is on the newspaper Facebook page and media has wide berth with (the) First Amendment (to the U.S. Constitution, guaranteeing freedom of speech and the press).”

Critics of the cartoon demanded that Republican Party and GOP legislative leaders repudiate the cartoon and Hicks. Hicks has derided some of these critics on social media as “liberal Marxist parasites,” adding, “As a traditional American, they are my enemy.”

Kelly issued the order because of a resurgence in reported coronavirus cases that increased the state’s total to nearly 16,000 as of Friday, when Kansas finished its worst two-week spike since the pandemic began. The state has reported 277 COVID-19-related deaths. The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

The state health department has reported only four coronavirus cases for Anderson County, all of them since May 8. There have been no reported deaths there.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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