Fairfield RTM member criticized for retweeting anti-vax swastika

Syringes filled with COVID-19 vaccine wait on a table at Hartford HealthCare’s new mass vaccination clinic on the west campus of Sacred Heart University, in Fairfield, Conn. March 10, 2021.

Syringes filled with COVID-19 vaccine wait on a table at Hartford HealthCare’s new mass vaccination clinic on the west campus of Sacred Heart University, in Fairfield, Conn. March 10, 2021.

Ned Gerard / Hearst Connecticut Media

FAIRFIELD — A candidate running to keep her seat on a town board is facing criticism days before the election for once retweeting a meme depicting a swastika that compared the vaccine rollout with Nazi Germany.

Representative Town Meeting member Hannah Gale, of District 6, shared the meme on Twitter, which showed a swastika below the year 1941 next to an image of a swastika modified so that the arms were syringes with the year changed to 2021. On Thursday, Gale said she retweeted the meme a couple of months ago, but has since deleted it.

Gale, a Republican, said she is Jewish and has relatives who died in the Holocaust, and did not retweet the meme to be antisemitic. She noted she has issued an apology, but still believes the anti-vaccine messaging it implied.

“I apologize from the bottom of my heart if anyone felt that my retweets were a desecration to the memory of those were murdered by the Nazi government,” Gale said in a tweet on Monday. “My intention was to be vigilant to the promise to never allow fascism to creep into the word again. Dehumanization is stealthy.”

Gale, a naturopathic physician and acupuncturist, said she retweeted the post because it was shocking.

“I found it so shocking and painful,” she said. “I deleted it because my intention was not to insult people who died in the Holocaust. My intention was to warn.”

A vocal supporter of vaccine choice, Gale switched political parties late last year over state Democrats’ push for legislation to remove the religious exemption to vaccination mandates in Connecticut.

The Fairfield Democratic Town Committee decried the most recent tweet in a Facebook post last week, saying the party condemns the spread of vaccine misinformation.

“Endorsed Republican RTM candidate Hannah Gale has been vocally and staunchly anti-vaccine and anti-mask,” the Facebook post says. “Gale regularly shares vaccine misinformation and conspiracy theories online, including those calling COVID vaccines ‘forced experiments,’ and comparing the Biden Administration to Hitler’s Nazi Germany.”

Gale said she is not anti-mask or anti-vaccine, but is against vaccine mandates and pro-religious exemption.

“I’m not saying there isn’t a place for vaccines in public health. I think that there might be,” she said. “However, I think that at this point there’s simply too many, and there are certain families and certain children that it’s dangerous for. I don’t know what to do right now but allow some selection.”

While she deleted the retweet because its intention was “twisted,” Gale said she still thinks the vaccine rollout is reminiscent of Nazi Germany.

“Why is that meme shocking? It’s shocking because there is something about it that tells a certain truth,” Gale said. “That’s why it hits a nerve.”

In a statement on Thursday, the Fairfield Republican Town Committee disavowed Gale’s retweet.

“Fairfield Republicans unequivocally condemn the use of Nazi symbols,” RTC Chairman Alex Plitsas said in a statement. “Representative Gale does not speak for the local Republican party, the Republican RTM caucus, or the RTM as a whole where she serves as a member, her actions were her own. Representative Gale recently issued a written apology to both the Republican and Democrat caucus for retweeting this offensive symbol.”

joshua.labella@hearstmediact.com