ZIONSVILLE, Ind. (WXIN) — A doctor running for a seat on the Zionsville, Indiana, school board has stirred up controversy after defending Nazis in a series of comments online and labeling all those appalled by his words “haters.”
Dr. Matt Keefer, who states he runs against “wokeness” and “indoctrination” in schools, stated in a Facebook comment that, “All Nazis weren’t ‘bad,'” when responding to a question about his definition of indoctrination.
Keefer was asked if he considered teachers educating students on the Tulsa Massacre, or being taught that Nazis were bad, would be considered indoctrination by him.
Keefer responded by stating: “All Nazis weren’t ‘bad’ as you specify. They did horrible things. They were in a group frenzy.”
“When you hear statements like this, it diminishes The Holocaust, it diminishes the memory,” said Jacob Markey, executive director of the Indianapolis Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC).
“We have families; we have survivors who are still alive, who live in Indianapolis, all around the world. Many of them are the only ones who survived; this hurts so much inside,” Markey added.
Many on social media disgusted with Keefer’s comment called on him to explain his stance. Keefer stood by his take, however, stating that “there were certainly evil Nazis. There were also good people that had to be Nazis.”
“The Nazi regime was evil — the mass murder of 6 million Jews and millions of other people because they didn’t conform to the Nazis’ beliefs,” Markey told WXIN. “We cannot diminish the event in anyway. We have to remember what happened so that this does not happen again.”
Keefer also defended his stance by invoking “mass formation psychosis”, an unfounded theory that gained attention after being floated on “The Joe Rogan Experience” podcast by Dr. Robert Malone. Many COVID-19 conspiracists have used the term to suggest that millions of people have been “hypnotized” into believing mainstream ideas about COVID-19.
Malone also used the theory to explain Nazi Germany while on Joe Rogan’s podcast, much as Keefer did.
Psychology experts say the concept isn’t supported by evidence, however, and similar theories have long been discredited.
“No respectable psychologist agrees with these ideas now,” said John Drury, a social psychologist at the University of Sussex who studies collective behavior.
Outrage over Keefer’s comments has continued to spread with parents of Zionsville students reaching out to the media to express their disgust or uneasiness with Keefer making said comments as a candidate for the ZCS School Board.
Parent Hilary Heffernan said the ZCS School Board race is one that she follows closely and is very important to her.
“It goes beyond just reading, writing and math. It’s emotional, critical thinking, equality, inclusion to really help students thrive in today’s America,” said Heffernan. “The fact there are people going out there and putting this toxicity into cyberspace and out into the community really proves that we need to raise kids to be critical thinkers.”
Heffernan said the recent comments made by Keefer deeply concerned and disappointed her.
“It’s so sad that this is the leadership or the adults of our community guiding our kids today and more than a dozen people are saying, ‘go, go get them, go get the weak.’ The fact that we’re in this spot is just absolutely sickening,” said Heffernan. “We have to address it, we have to know better now, and we have to do better now.”
In the wake of the outrage, Keefer posted a status update in which he labeled those appalled by his comments defending Nazis and pushing an unfounded theory as “leftists” and “mean spirited haters.”
“I know haters gotta hate,” he wrote, “so please continue spewing your taunts. I’m only getting stronger in the community!”
After reaching out to Keefer to see if he would speak on his statements, many of his comments and posts — including those referenced in this article — were deleted from his Facebook.
Keefer did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Instead, he posted a Facebook update stating he was preparing a response to the “misinterpretation” of his remarks.
Several hours later, Keefer posted a long message where he doubled down on his stance and affirmed his belief that he was “correct” in saying that not all Nazis were bad. He stated he was not a Nazi sympathizer, however, and “never will be.”
WXIN has reached out to members of the ZCS School Board along with current candidates running for seats in the upcoming election against Keefer.
Debbie Ungar, president of the Zionsville Community Schools Board of Trustees, responded on behalf of the school board stating:
Recent remarks by a candidate for Zionsville Community School’s board of trustees do not reflect the values of our school community or the communities that we serve. Our goal is to ensure that we have a school district where everyone feels that they belong and are valued.
This situation shows once again how important it is for all voters to learn about their local school board candidates and ensure that they truly have the best interest of students, teachers and community members in mind.Debbie Ungar
Zionsville school board candidate Tim Hardt responded with the following statement:
“I’ve not spoken with Matt. I’ve publicly supported his opponent Sarah Sampson in that race and I continue to support Sarah. I’m sure you will speak with him directly but, to me, the comments are troubling. There is no need to equivocate when it comes to the Nazi party – they were evil. Further, there were good people who refused to join with the evil – some paying for their conviction with their freedom and their lives.”Tim Hardt
Michael Berg, current school board member and candidate in the upcoming election, provided the following statement:
I was made aware of Dr. Keefer’s comments and was disturbed by them. Dr. Keefer has not been shy about making sweeping generalizations about many groups of people whom he disagrees with, yet he seeks a nuanced discussion of the actions of Nazis. Perhaps more concerning to me is his apparent desire to co-opt the suffering of Holocaust victims in an effort to claim a similar type of victimhood for himself over disagreements with COVID-19 mitigation strategies. I am concerned that Dr. Keefer and candidates like him are running for school board seats with motivations that are driven by their political beliefs. The ultimate responsibility of a school board member, and my reason for running, is to ensure that all students have access to a high quality public education.Michael Berg
The Indianapolis JCRC said these types of comments towards any community can’t be tolerated.
“As communities we have so much to add – our traditions, our customs – we have so much to add, just like others do,” said Markey.
In response to the comments made by Keefer, Markey said people had reached out to the Indianapolis JCRC expressing their anger and sadness. Because the JCRC focuses on educating the community through speakers and sharing knowledge, Markey said he encourages even more people to reach out in order to move forward from this in a positive direction.
“We have to keep rebuilding our efforts to educate the community, to understand why comments like that just are not okay,” said Markey. “We would love as the JCRC to work with the community in Zionsville to bring someone in and help people to understand and to be able to move forward and continue to educate ourselves.”
Markey said speakers with the JCRC include survivors of the Holocaust and family members, including their grandchildren, who help share stories to educate on history.
“Bearing witness, that’s what’s important. Learning, understanding the mistake here and committing to education, committing to understanding why these kind of comments are not wanted and making sure this kind of education is going to be in Zionsville, and we’re also hoping it’s not just Zionsville,” said Markey. “The more we can educate, I think will have a better outcome.