A Republican candidate for the Virginia House of Delegates has come under criticism for sharing a meme on Facebook mocking Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (D-N.Y.) comparison of U.S. detention centers on the Mexico border with concentration camps.
Paul Milde, who is running for the seat in Stafford County, shared the meme on his personal Facebook profile. It showed a child in a playpen with the punchline, “Install your very own concentration camp in the comfort of your own home!”
Milde shared the post with the comment, “Too much!! Lol”.
The image was originally posted by Facebook user Jerry F Fitzgerald. Milde’s post received several likes and reactions from other Facebook users after it was posted over the weekend.
Virginia House Minority Leader Eileen Filler-Corn (D-District 41) denounced the image in a statement on Sunday.
“Jokes such as the one Mr. Milde shared on his Facebook are not light-hearted nor are they harmless-they are anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant, horrific, and disturbing, anti-American and dehumanizing,” the statement said.
Filler-Corn said she was most frustrated by the fact that Milde was so casual about sharing the meme.
“It’s not just the post,” she said in a phone interview, “It’s his commenting on the post which made light of it. It was nothing remotely funny, entertaining or humorous about it. It’s quite clearly offensive any way you look at it.”
Ron Halber, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, agreed.
“The fact that a candidate for public office feels comfortable sharing that image is incredibly disturbing,” he said. “It’s not only offensive to Holocaust survivors, I thinks its offensive to World War II vets who risked their lives to liberate Nazi death camps, and offensive to Americans today. He thinks that’s it’s OK to mock the inhumanity of others and that it’s all right to trivialize the Holocaust. It is also extremely insensitive to the dehumanizing treatment and suffering that many people are being subjected to at our southern border”
Milde, a self-described conservative Republican, did not respond to requests for comment.
Halie Soifer, director of the Jewish Democratic Council of America, called the image “offensive.” She said while there are times when the comparisons between the detention camps at the border and concentration camps are apt, Milde’s post “makes fun of those analogies and it makes fun of concentration camps in general.”
The Republican Jewish Coalition did not respond to a request for comment.
Filler-Corn and Halber called for Milde to apologize.
“I think his party’s leadership needs to repudiate his views and behavior in this instance,” Halber said, “The candidate should acknowledge he made a mistake and that apology should be quick and unequivocal.”
But in a statement, Milde said he removed the “parody” of Ocasio-Cortez’s “over-the-top rhetoric mischaracterizing the conditions at ICE facilities” which does a disservice to, among others, “those murdered during the Holocaust.”
“Having visited Buchenwald and Dachau in Germany, and Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland, I learned what constitutes an actual concentration camp and the unimaginable horrors that took place there,” his statement read.