Senate candidate cancels fundraiser after donor's use of swastika

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Republican candidate Hershel Walker, the former NFL player running for U.S. Senate in Georgia, canceled a fundraiser on Wednesday after the event's host was condemned for using a profile picture of a swastika made of vaccine syringes on social media.

Republican donor Bettina Sofia Viviano-Langlais, a Texas filmmaker, was scheduled to host the fundraiser in Parker, Texas, this weekend, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which first reported the story. 

Viviano-Langlais's Twitter account has been taken down at the time of reporting, but a screengrab captured earlier shows the vaccine-swastika logo, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. The image has been used by opponents of vaccine mandates who liken the policy to the Nazi oppression and genocide of Jews — a comparison that's been widely condemned.

A Walker spokesperson told the newspaper: "This is clearly an anti-mandatory vaccination graphic. Herschel unequivocally opposes anti-semitism and bigotry of all kinds."

.@HerschelWalker spokeswoman responds, “This is clearly an anti-mandatory vaccination graphic. Herschel unequivocally opposes anti-semitism and bigotry of all kinds.” #gapol

— Patricia Murphy (@politicalinsidr) October 13, 2021

The campaign later confirmed that the fundraiser was canceled, CBS Atlanta affiliate WGCL reported.

Mallory Blount, a spokeswoman for the Walker campaign, said in a statement that "the previously scheduled event has been called off. Herschel is a strong friend of Israel and the Jewish community and opposes hatred and bigotry of all forms. 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." 

Critics expressed outrage and disgust — and took issue with the campaign's initial response.

The Jewish Democratic Council of America tweeted that it is "absolutely vile — Republicans are proudly and openly displaying swastikas."

The Democratic Party of Georgia's Dan Gottlieb said in a press release that "Herschel Walker defended a swastika, and canceling a fundraiser does not change the fact that he failed to condemn a hateful, anti-Semitic symbol." 

Walker's campaign officially launched in August and has already raised over $3.7 million in his bid to unseat the Democratic incumbent, Senator Raphael Warnock. Former President Donald Trump encouraged Walker to get into the race. It's expected to be a hard-fought and very expensive campaign, with Cook Political Report rating the race as "lean Democrat." 

Walker has refused to say whether or not he is vaccinated.

Adam Brewster contributed to this report.

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