The owner of a Tennessee hat shop is facing a social media backlash and business boycotts after posting a photo of herself wearing a yellow patch resembling the Star of David with the words “not vaccinated”.
The photo posted by Gigi Gaskins, owner of HatWRKS in Nashville, showed her smiling and wearing a badge that looks similar in shape and colour to those that the Nazis forced Jews to wear in Europe during the Holocaust. A caption with the photo advertised the patches for $5 apiece.
“People are so outraged by my post? But are you outraged with the tyranny the world is experiencing?” Gaskins said on Instagram.
The photo of the star patch prompted thousands of comments on Instagram and Twitter, spawning the hashtag #HateWorks.
President Joe Biden said on May 28 nearly 165 million people have received at least one vaccine shot in the United States and numbers of COVID-19 cases are declining as the nation returns to normalcy.
For months, some supporters of former President Donald Trump have equated pandemic requirements people wear masks and get vaccinated to the Holocaust prompting outrage.
— Lisa B (@ElleBeeRu92) May 29, 2021
“If you don’t understand what is happening, that is on you not me. I pay much more respect to history by standing up with the fallen than offering silence and compliance,” Gaskins said in response.
“There is a historical parallel to facism [fascism] to be drawn,” Gaskins said in another post, seeming to compare US efforts to vaccinate more adults against COVID-19 with the Holocaust.
“We can only fight back to not relive history,” she said.
Hatmaker Stetson responded by cancelling the distribution of its iconic American cowboy hats to HatWRKS “as a result of the offensive content and opinions shared”.
As a result of the offensive content and opinions shared by HatWRKS in Nashville, Stetson and our distribution partners will cease the sale of all Stetson products. We thank you for your continued support and patience.
— John B. Stetson (@StetsonUSA) May 29, 2021
Gaskins, 60, deleted the photo and issued an apology.
“In NO WAY did I intend to trivialize the Star of David or disrespect what happened to millions of people. That is not who I am what I stand for,” Gaskins wrote.
“My intent was not to exploit or make a profit. My hope was to share my genuine concern fear, and to do all that I can to make sure that nothing like that ever happens again. I sincerely apologize for any insensitivity,” she wrote.
Hatmaker Goorin Bros of San Francisco said on Instagram that it was “horrified” by the patch.
The Star of David badge was forced on Jews in Germany by the Nazis and used as a tool to persecute and eventually murder millions.
“To make a mockery of the Holocaust in any form is unacceptable and completely insensitive,” owner and company president Ben Goorin said. “We are looking at all options to fix and address this unfortunate circumstance.”
The photo prompted protests outside the shop. One sign at a protest read, “The Holocaust is not a marketing op.”
Ivo Daalder, the US ambassador to NATO from 2009 to 2013, denounced the photo on Twitter.
“As a young schoolgirl in Holland, my mother was forced to wear a yellow star by the Nazis to identify her as a Jew,” Daalder wrote.
“It’s beyond grotesque to sell this evil symbol to proclaim one’s not vaccinated. Where does this end?”
As a young school girl in Holland, my mother was forced to wear a yellow star by the Nazis to identify her as a Jew. It’s beyond grotesque to sell this evil symbol to proclaim one’s not vaccinated. Where does this end? https://t.co/HGi699ybhT
— Ivo Daalder (@IvoHDaalder) May 28, 2021
The HatWRKS Instagram account is populated with posts criticising President Biden, COVID-19 vaccines, and mask-wearing requirements. One post appears to show pro-Trump protesters at the US Capitol on January 6, according to a review by The Daily Beast.
A group of 50 survivors of the Holocaust issued an open letter on May 28, the same day Gaskins posted her photo of the star, urging people not to compare current events with what happened in the 1930s and 40s.
“It is deeply painful for us to see our personal history – the systematic destruction of our families and communities and murder of six million Jewish men, women and children – exploited in this way,” the letter said.