Walker’s campaign spokeswoman early Wednesday said the swastika is “clearly an anti-mandatory vaccination graphic.” In another statement hours later, the campaign disavowed Viviano-Langlais’ usage of the symbol and said Walker opposed antisemitism and bigotry “in all forms.”
“Despite the fact that the apparent intent behind the graphic was to condemn government vaccine mandates,” the campaign said, “the symbol used is very offensive and does not reflect the values of Herschel Walker or his campaign.”
Democrats and other critics reacted with horror at both the swastika and the campaign’s initial reaction. The Jewish Democratic Council of America said the proud display of swastikas was “absolutely vile,” and the Jewish Democratic Women’s Salon called it “beyond unacceptable.”
“A swastika is a swastika,” the group added.
State Democrats also condemned the campaign for not immediately distancing itself from Viviano-Langlais’ usage of the Nazi symbol.
“Herschel Walker defended a swastika, and canceling a fundraiser does not change the fact that he failed to condemn a hateful, anti-Semitic symbol,” Dan Gottlieb of the Democratic Party of Georgia said in a press release.
Walker, a former football star, is one of four Republicans competing to challenge U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock next year. He entered the race in August with former President Donald Trump’s support, and is off to a fast fundraising start with a $3.7 million haul in his first five weeks. Walker has opposed vaccine mandates, though his own vaccination status is unknown.
Viviano-Langlais promoted the event at her home in the exurbs of Dallas by posting an invite on Twitter that sought $500 donations to attend the reception and $5,800 for VIP treatment, which included a picture with the candidate.
The film producer has long equated vaccine mandates with fascism on her social media page. She also held a “Texas is Now Open” mask-burning bonfire party at her home in March. Several ex-campaign staffers for former Republican President Donald Trump were billed as speakers for the night.
In a post on Wednesday, Viviano-Langlais said she removed the symbol “because of the left’s need to silence free speech” and that she didn’t intend it to be antisemitic.
“It was a pic showing what happens when fascists demand people insert foreign material into their body they don’t want,” she said.
Staff columnist Patricia Murphy contributed to this article.
The Walker campaign’s full statement:
“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.”