A Georgia Republican candidate for the US Senate has canceled an upcoming fundraiser following a media uproar over an image of a swastika in the Twitter profile of the event’s host.
Senatorial candidate Herschel Walker had been due to appear in person at this weekend’s fundraiser on his behalf hosted by Bettina Sofia Viviano-Langlais, a film producer who resides in Parker, Texas.
However, a report in the Atlanta Journal Constitution on Wednesday — which observed that Viviano-Langlais had “a history of controversial media posts, including what appears to be a rendering of a swastika as her Twitter profile picture, but is a symbol now used by activists in Texas opposing COVID vaccine mandates” — set off a firestorm of social media criticism aimed at Walker for associating with her.
A spokesperson for Walker responded to initial media queries about the fundraiser’s host by describing the swastika, composed in this case as a set of linked syringes, as “clearly an anti-mandatory vaccination graphic.”
The spokesperson additionally emphasized that Walker, a former college football and NFL star running back, “unequivocally opposes antisemitism and bigotry of all kinds.”
A later statement from Walker’s campaign office confirmed that the candidate would no longer attend the fundraiser, disavowing Viviano-Langlais’ use of the swastika.
“Despite the fact that 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,” the statement declared.
One Democratic legislator nevertheless challenged Walker on whether he would accept funds raised by Viviano-Langlais on his behalf.
“A swastika composed of syringes is still a swastika. Are you going to keep the money from this fundraiser that was hosted by a bigot?” Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) asked on Twitter.
Lieu also criticized the Walker campaign’s description of the offending swastika on Viviano-Langlais’ Twitter account.
“It’s antisemitic for your campaign spokesperson to equate vaccine mandates with what the Nazi swastika stands for,” Lieu said.
The swastika graphic had been deleted from Viviano-Langlais’ still-active Twitter feed as of Thursday morning.
The American Jewish Committee (AJC) meanwhile called on Walker to condemn comparisons between public health policies to combat the coronavirus pandemic with the persecution of Jews and other minorities by the Nazi regime in Germany.
“The Nazi swastika is a symbol of hate. After Herschel Walker canceled a fundraiser sponsored by an individual who proudly displayed the antisemitic symbol, he must now clearly condemn comparisons between the Holocaust and COVID health policies,” the AJC stated.