TOPEKA, Kansas (AP) — A Kansas labor leader apologized Wednesday for remarks he made during a legislative hearing comparing COVID-19 vaccine mandates to the Holocaust that killed millions of Jews.
Cornell Beard said the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers has “a long, proud tradition of welcoming everyone into the labor movement.” Beard is president of the union’s Wichita district.
Beard said his remarks were taken out of context but added, “I wholeheartedly apologize to the Jewish community.”
“Although it was not my intent, my comments came off as insensitive regarding one of the most sinister times in world history,” Beard said in an email to The Associated Press.
Beard spoke during a committee hearing Friday against vaccine mandates announced in September by US President Joe Biden. Beard, who is Black, gave the committee a written statement accusing people who won’t work with others who are not vaccinated of “preserving and perpetuating the ideology of a modern-day racist.”
“We’re basically saying you’re the modern-day Jew,” Beard told the committee in person. “You’re gonna wear that star … and we don’t give a damn if you complain about it or not.”
Before and during World War II, Nazi Germany forced Jews to wear yellow stars.
The Machinists union repudiated Beard’s remarks, and Jewish leaders in the Kansas City area condemned them.