Having already claimed that face masks do not work, state Rep. Nino Vitale offered a new reason Monday why he wouldn’t wear a mask during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic — because faces are the “likeness of God.”
Vitale, a Republican from Urbana, has been among the most outspoken critics against the health orders issued by Gov. Mike DeWine and Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton. He has called their COVID-19 response unconstitutional and in recent days has openly encouraged Ohioans to ignore their shutdown orders.
On Monday, Vitale took to Facebook to share more thoughts about wearing face masks.
“This is the greatest nation on earth founded on Judeo-Christian Principles,” he wrote on his official page. “One of those principles is that we are all created in the image and likeness of God. That image is seen the most by our face. I will not wear a mask.”
During the pandemic, Vitale has spent much of his time downplaying the severity of the virus and sharing conspiracy theories. He’s attended numerous protests at the Ohio Statehouse calling for DeWine to reopen the state. At one such protest, he alleged that Bill Gates may have created the coronavirus:
🚨🚨🚨MUST WATCH: At recent COVID-19 protest, GOP State Rep. Nino Vitale accuses Bill Gates of having created the coronavirus: pic.twitter.com/LfNEAGczna
— Tyler Buchanan (@Tylerjoelb) April 24, 2020
More recently, he’s had a COVID-19 video taken down by YouTube for spreading misinformation and has criticized Acton for issuing health orders despite being an “unelected” official. DeWine has pushed back against that line of attack, saying he as an elected governor appointed Acton to serve on his cabinet and that complaints should be directed at him.
Vitale referred to Acton, who is Jewish, as an “unelected Globalist Health Director.”
The word “globalist” broadly means someone who advocates for a policy of “treating the whole world as a proper sphere for political influence,” according to Merriam-Webster.
More specifically, the word has been widely used in recent years as an anti-Semitic slur, according to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).
James Pasch, the regional director of the ADL’s Cleveland office, provided this outlet a statement responding to Vitale’s post. Pasch had previously condemned a comparison made by state Sen. Andrew Brenner, R-Powell, who wrote on Facebook last week he would not let Acton turn Ohio into Nazi Germany. (Brenner later apologized.)
“For the second time in a week, a member of the Ohio legislature has invoked antisemitism when describing displeasure with the state’s COVID-19 response,” Pasch said. “Rep. Nino Vitale’s use of the antisemitic slur ‘globalist’ when describing Ohio’s Director of Health is unacceptable and offensive. The term ‘globalist’ has roots in a long-running conspiracy theory about Jewish populations being disloyal to the countries in which they live, while operating through secret international alliances.”
Pasch described that anti-Semites “frequently use the term ‘globalist’ as a code word for ‘Jew.’”
“Whether Rep. Vitale purposely invoked antisemitism or not, we strongly urge him to remove that term from his vocabulary, and to issue an apology to Dr. Acton and the entire Jewish community. (The Anti-Defamation League) is willing and able to provide Rep. Vitale, and all other elected officials, training on antisemitism.”
In an interview last week, Vitale told the Capital Journal he was unaware the word had such a negative context. He claimed to not know Acton was Jewish, despite her having mentioned it numerous times at the daily press conferences. Her faith was spotlighted in the previous controversy involving Brenner, which was widely reported by dozens of news outlets in Ohio and throughout the globe.
Vitale claimed he was unaware of the Brenner story or that Republican officials, from DeWine to the state Republican chair, had publicly condemned him.
Vitale and other members of the Ohio House of Representatives returned to work on Monday. The Ohio Capital Journal reported over the weekend that a piece of legislation involving the state’s COVID-19 response is already being considered.
Republican state Rep. John Becker is planning to introduce a bill that would reopen all of Ohio immediately and would revoke the executive powers used by DeWine and Acton to shut down the state’s economy.
Vitale is not the only Republican member of the Ohio House of Representatives to have shared conspiracy theories about COVID-19. At an Economic Recovery Task Force meeting on Monday morning, Rep. Jon Cross (R-Kenton) claimed the virus was a deliberate attack on America by the Chinese: