Marjorie Taylor Greene apologizes for comparing House mask rule to the Holocaust

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Marjorie Taylor Greene, the extremist Republican congresswoman, has apologized for her comments comparing the required wearing of safety masks in the US House to the horrors of the Holocaust.

“I’m truly sorry for offending people with remarks about the Holocaust,” Taylor Greene told reporters outside the Capitol on Monday, saying she had visited Washington’s US Holocaust Memorial Museum earlier in the day. “There’s no comparison and there never ever will be.“

Related: Fury as Marjorie Taylor Greene likens Covid rules to Nazi treatment of Jews

Greene’s comments were a rare expression of regret by the conservative, who has a record of racist and Islamophobic remarks, as well support for QAnon and other antisemitic conspiracy theories.

Her apology came more than three weeks after appearing on a conservative podcast and comparing Covid-19 safety requirements adopted by Democrats controlling the House to “a time and history where people were told to wear a gold star”. She said they were “put in trains and taken to gas chambers in Nazi Germany. This is exactly the type of abuse that Nancy Pelosi is talking about”.

Her comments sparked widespread outrage across the political spectrum, and were condemned by Republican leaders, including the House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, who called the comparison “appalling”.

GOP leaders, however, have been reluctant to take concrete action against Greene, a close ally of Donald Trump. After social media posts were unearthed in which Greene suggested support for executing some Democratic leaders, McCarthy and most Republicans stood by her when the House took the unusual step of stripping her of her committee assignments in February.

But as House members returned to the Capitol on Monday after a three-week break, Greene was contrite.

“Antisemitism is true hate,” she said. “And I saw that today at the Holocaust museum.”

In 2018, two years before her election to Congress, she speculated on Facebook that California wildfires may have been caused by “lasers or blue beams of light” controlled by a leftwing cabal tied to a powerful Jewish family.

On Monday, she told reporters that when she was 19, she visited the site of the Auschwitz concentration camp in Nazi-occupied Poland. “It isn’t like I learned about it today,” she said of the Holocaust, in which 6 million Jews and huge numbers of other people were killed. “I went today because I thought it was important,” she said, and wanted to talk about it as she apologized.

House leaders have recently said vaccinated people are no longer required to wear masks in the chamber.

The US is approaching nearly 600,000 deaths from Covid-19.

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