A rural commissioner called Gov. Gary Herbert a Nazi for approving a face mask mandate in urban areas

(Steve Griffin | Deseret News, pool) Utah Gov. Gary Herbert takes off his mask before speaking during the daily briefing on the state's efforts to fight COVID-19 Wednesday, June 24, 2020, in Salt Lake City.

A Piute County commissioner compared Utah’s governor to Nazis, suggesting that Utahns will soon be required to offer a “Heil Herbert” salute.

“Hang on friends, it won’t be long before you are required to do a Sieg Heil Salute to Herbert,” tweeted Darin Bushman in response to news that Gov. Gary Herbert approved a mask mandate in Salt Lake and Summit counties that’s set to take effect Saturday. “Welcome to Utah now extend your right arm straight at 45 degrees keeping your hand parallel to your arm and offer your ‘Heil Herbert.’”

(Screen shot) Piute County commissioner Dan Bushman tweeted this on Thursday.

Bushman followed that with not just the hashtags #nazi and #mask, but with a vintage photo of Germans carrying Nazi flags and performing the Nazi salute.

Herbert’s office responded, calling for “civility in our public discourse” and adding, “Drawing comparisons between a widely accepted public health practice during a pandemic and Hitler’s brutal authoritarianism is beyond the pale.”

The governor’s statement called wearing masks a “simple courtesy” that can “drive the transmission rate to nearly zero.”

“Governor Herbert is asking local elected officials and local health departments to work together, examine their unique situation and determine what policies are right for their localities. Having duly elected officials work together in this fashion to promote public health, economic engagement and local control is a far cry from Nazism.”

Bushman later deleted the tweet and offered an apology of sorts. “Sorry if you found my tweet offensive. I have removed it so as not to further offend. My apologies.”

But that didn’t come before screenshots of his tweet circulated online, drawing intense criticism. Salt Lake County Councilwoman Shireen Ghorbani tweeted that Bushman’s comment was “unacceptable and dangerous” and “he should resign.”

The executive director of Alliance for a Better Utah echoed that sentiment. “Commissioner Bushman’s horrific comparison of wearing a mask to Nazi Germany makes it clear that he lacks the moral compass needed to serve as a public official in Utah,” said Chase Thomas, the organization’s executive director. ”Bushman’s comments are deeply disturbing and offensive, and they are serious enough that he should remove himself from office.”

“While I appreciate your input, I have no intention of resigning,” Bushman replied to Ghorbani.

Rabbi Sam Spector of Salt Lake City’s Congregation Kol Ami invited Bushman to “come discuss his tweet with me.”

“Taking measures to protect civilians from a pandemic and save lives is not equivalent to Nazism in the least bit,” Spector said, “and we need to educate our public officials.”

Bushman has not replied to Spector’s invitation.

The governor’s statement said Bushman’s tweet “grossly trivializes the experience of the Holocaust.” And Rep. Patrice Arent, D-Millcreek, posted on Facebook, “It’s totally inappropriate to compare Governor Herbert, who is following the advice of medical professionals to help save lives, to the horrendous actions of Hitler.” Arent, who is Jewish, added, “Trivializing the Holocaust is deeply offensive and belittles the memory of millions of Jews and others who were murdered.”

Herbert had previously approved moving Piute County, in central Utah, to “green” status, essentially no restrictions. Responding to a tweet from Salt Lake Tribune columnist Robert Gehrke, Bushman wrote, “Yes and we had to beg the overlord for permission! He had the authority to shut us down but didn’t have the guts to open us back up without having someone to blame therefore we had to ask permission.”

Herbert is allowing Salt Lake and Summit counties to require people to wear masks in businesses, restaurants and community events.