Republican Senate candidate Herschel Walker has cancelled a planned fundraising event after it emerged that the host was using an image of a swastika as her profile picture on social media.
The cancellation came only hours after Walker's campaign defended the hosts' use of the image that featured several needles laid out in the shape of the Nazi symbol. Its existence was reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Wednesday.
In a statement, the Walker's campaign claimed that film producer Bettina Sofia Viviano-Langlais’ rendering of swastika was “clearly an anti-mandatory [COVID-19] vaccination graphic,” adding that “Herschel unequivocally opposes antisemitism and bigotry of all kinds.”
Shortly thereafter, however, the campaign announced the fundraiser’s cancellation. While “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,” a statement said.
Democrats and Jewish groups were quick to condemn Walker, with one Georgia Jewish Democrat stating that the candidate had “defended a swastika, and canceling a fundraiser does not change the fact that he failed to condemn a hateful, antisemitic symbol,” the AJC reported.
Walker, an African American former football star, is a longtime supporter of former President Donald Trump, who he has defended against the charges of racism which have dogged the politician.
The candidate, who was encouraged to run for office by Trump, has promoted the debunked conspiracy theory that President Joe Biden won the 2020 election due to a “country wide election fraud” and intimated that the January 6 Capitol insurrection was an attempt to divert attention from the issue of “election integrity.”
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The controversy comes only days after Josh Mandel, a fellow Republican Senate candidate in Ohio, accused Jewish philanthropist George Soros and the “deep state” of masterminding the COVID-19 pandemic.
Many Republicans oppose adamantly to rules requiring proof of vaccinations, viewing them as unconstitutional and authoritarian. Proponents of vaccine mandates see them as necessary to pull the nation out of the nearly two-year pandemic and return to normalcy.
Reuters, and the Associated Press contributed to this report.