A reporter for the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel asked Mr Polis, who is Jewish and lost family in the Holocaust, how he was responding to criticism that the state’s stay-at-home orders – which were put in place on 25 March and are set to last until 26 April – were akin to tyranny and “Nazism” during a press briefing.
The reporter said: “We’re hearing a lot of reports around here, and I know I’ve seen some stuff going on statewide, about neighbours reporting on other neighbours for not following the orders, seeing a lot of rebellion out here against your orders, which have been called tyrannical, against local health department orders, being equated to nazism. How do you react to that?
“What do you say to those people who are clearly getting frustrated with this stay-at-home order?”
Mr Polis replied: “As a Jewish American who lost family in the Holocaust, I’m offended by any comparison to Nazism. We act to save lives – the exact opposite of the slaughter of 6 million Jews and many gypsies and Catholics and gays and lesbians and Russians and so many others.”
According to 9News, Colorado’s House Minority Leader Patrick Neville, characterised the stay-at-home orders as “Gestapo-like mentality” on a conservative talk radio show.
The Denver Post called Mr Neville to ask about his statement in light of the governor’s history as not only the first Jewish man elected to serve as governor in Colorado, but the first gay man to serve as governor in the country.
“I should have said authoritarian, not Gestapo,” Mr Neville said. “And I think authoritarian is still accurate.”
The Republican politician said he and the governor have spoken many times since he made the comment and said the governor never brought it up, suggesting any complaints by the governor were his attempts to “make political hay out of something that really was nothing.”
After responding to the reporter’s question regarding his orders and comparisons to Nazism, Mr Polis reiterated the argument for their necessity.
“We know that these steps are difficult, and it’s not a contest to see what you can get away with. It’s a contest to see how well you can stay at home,” he said.
“By not saying at home, by having parties, by congregating, you’re not sticking it to the government. You’re not sticking it to Jared Polis. You’re sticking it to yourself, because you’re putting yourself and your loved ones in jeopardy, and you’re prolonging the economic pain and difficulties that your fellow Coloradans face.
He called on the residents of the state to unite against spreading the virus.
“Now’s the time for us to act with unity, to act together, to be able to do the best that we can to stay at home except when absolutely necessary so that we can open up sooner than later, so that we can have more freedom quicker rather than later, and so that we can create a sustainable way for us to get by as a state and as a country,” he said.