Watchdog calls for probe into Gohmert ‘disregarding public health guidance’ on COVID-19
A left-leaning anti-corruption watchdog called Tuesday for a probe into whether Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), who recently tested positive for COVID-19, was in violation of House rules for not complying with public health guidelines during the pandemic.
In a letter sent to Omar Ashmawy, the chief counsel and staff director at the Office of Congressional Ethics, Accountable.US President Kyle Herrig argued that Gohmert’s actions, including his decision not to wear a mask in the Capitol, “put his staff, colleagues, and other House staff at risk.”
Herrig noted reports that Gohmert, who tested positive late last month and has been quarantining in Texas, required a full staff in-office meeting, informed his staff of his diagnosis in person and potentially infected his colleague, House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), during a committee hearing.
Attorney General William Barr was also tested for the coronavirus after his exposure to Gohmert.
“After he recently contracted COVID-19, news reports revealed that Rep. Gohmert’s consistent failure to wear a mask resulted in staff across Capitol Hill feeling that they were putting their health in danger by showing up to work. At least one member of Gohmert’s staff appears to have learned of their boss’s COVID-19 status through media reports,” the letter said.
“It is alarming to learn that members of Rep. Gohmert’s staff who expressed concerns about safety protocols were ignored or laughed off,” it added.
House Democrats began requiring face masks at committee hearings in June.
Gohmert attended two hearings the day before his diagnosis and was spotted not wearing a mask outside a House Judiciary Committee hearing, sparking backlash from his Democratic colleagues and some GOP members.
“It is worth noting that Rep. Raul Grijalva recently tested positive for COVID-19 just days after he and Rep. Gohmert participated in a House Natural Resources Committee hearing together,” Herrig wrote.
“Public health experts have made it abundantly clear that wearing a mask is essential to curbing the spread of COVID-19. At a time when health care and other essential workers lack the personal protective equipment (PPE) to help keep them safe on the job, Rep. Gohmert has repeatedly opted not to wear a mask out of personal preference — putting his own health, and the health of all those who work for and around him, in danger,” he wrote.
Herrig said he believes that Gohmert’s “personal conduct and treatment of staff” during the pandemic undermines the “credibility of the House” and meets the standard for an investigation.
“Members of the House of Representatives are required to conduct themselves ‘at all times in a manner that reflects credibility on the House.’ (Rule 23, Clause 1),” the Accountable.US head wrote. “By disregarding public health guidance and purportedly creating a workplace climate that put the health of others in jeopardy, Rep. Gohmert clearly engaged in conduct that does not reflect credibility on the House.”
Gohmert’s office did not immediately respond to request for comment.
After he tested positive, the Texas Republican questioned whether germs on his mask may have in fact caused him to contract the virus.
Health experts have repeatedly called for the public to wear face coverings to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Leaders in both parties have advocated for members of their respective parties to wear masks, with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) calling for rapid testing to be brought to the Capitol for lawmakers, staff and press.
So far Reps. Joe Cunningham (D-S.C.), Ben McAdams (D-Utah), Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.), Neal Dunn (R-Fla.), Mike Kelly (R-Pa.), Tom Rice (R-S.C.), Morgan Griffith (R-Va.), Grijalva and Rodney Davis (R-Ill.), as well as Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), have all tested positive for the disease.