We've seen this all too often over the past year: Our political leaders piously declare that we all need to mask up, avoid large gatherings and do our part to slow the spread of COVID-19. Then, too often, they turn around and refuse to follow their own rules.
The most recent example occurred when Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel BowserMuriel BowserDC police accused of racial, sex discrimination The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden meets with lawmakers amid domestic agenda panic The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Government shutdown fears increase as leaders dig in MORE announced last week that masks should be worn in indoor settings in the nation's capital after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) deemed the city an area of substantial and high transmission of COVID-19.
For context, there were 21 homicides in D.C. in July, compared to eight COVID-related deaths. No matter: The mayor made the order, and the city is back to feeling like 2020 all over again.
And then Bowser – in a world of smartphones and social media, where anyone can be a photojournalist and a broadcaster – decides to break her own rule, less than 24 hours after implementing it. After officiating at a rooftop wedding, she attended the indoor reception and was photographed sans mask.
When encountered by the Washington Examiner, Mayor Bowser confirmed that she officiated the maskless, indoor wedding, but when asked why she was violating her own mask mandate, her security retinue quickly escorted her away. https://t.co/hY0Ji2zqnj pic.twitter.com/xozhIupSin— Tiana Lowe (@TianaTheFirst) August 1, 2021
An apology followed, correct?
Not even close. The mayor's press office blamed "conservative media" for the photos while insisting the mayor did nothing wrong.
“If Mayor Bowser was photographed indoors without a mask, it was during the indoor dinner, when she was eating or drinking,” the Mayor’s Office said in a statement.
But looking at the photos, it doesn't appear Bowser – along with most other guests – were eating or drinking. The reporter on the story, Tiana Lowe of the Washington Examiner, says the mayor's claims are not true.
This is not true. Mayor Bowser can't possibly be so naive that she thought I didn't keep extra video footage as backup to prove she wasn't actively eating/drinking? It'll air exclusively tomorrow on Hold The Line with @BuckSexton on @TheFirstonTV. https://t.co/rqAeAlHbwK— Tiana Lowe (@TianaTheFirst) August 1, 2021
On cue, some media outlets played the role of stenographer in echoing the mayor's defense
Should Dems who favor restrictive Covid measures be taking their own behavior right up to the line?— Brianna Keilar (@brikeilarcnn) August 2, 2021
Mayor Bowser technically complied with her mask mandate at an indoor wedding reception in DC as Obama is set to host a 60th birthday bash outdoors - but w almost 700 guests/staff pic.twitter.com/bBOD6DDYLy
DC media is more concerned with writing Bowser’s press releases than actually reporting. pic.twitter.com/ihXTwsNbbG— Natalie Johnson (@nataliejohnsonn) August 2, 2021
The Washingtonian somehow thought this was worthy of breathless breaking-news treatment. "UPDATE: The Washington Examiner writer who published photos of Mayor Bowser maskless at a wedding over the weekend was not invited to the wedding," reads its headline.
UPDATE: The Washington Examiner writer who published photos of Mayor Bowser maskless at a wedding over the weekend was not invited to the wedding. https://t.co/Tc9MYIspsZ— Washingtonian (@washingtonian) August 2, 2021
This sad movie has played before in other cities across the country.
Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom dined indoors with 12 people without a mask in pre-vaccine 2020 at a ritzy restaurant in wine country. Last week, the same governor pulled his kids out of summer camp over its mask policy.
EXCLUSIVE: We've obtained photos of Governor Gavin NewsomGavin NewsomCalifornia to replace 'alien' with 'noncitizen,' 'immigrant' in state laws The Memo: Trump's Arizona embarrassment sharpens questions for GOP California to launch program tracking violent deaths in LGBTQ+ community MORE at the Napa dinner party he's in hot water over. The photos call into question just how outdoors the dinner was. A witness who took photos tells us his group was so loud, the sliding doors had to be closed. 10pm on @FOXLA pic.twitter.com/gtOVEwa864— Bill Melugin (@BillFOXLA) November 18, 2020
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) got her hair done indoors in San Francisco in pre-vaccine 2020 — then blamed the salon owner for setting her up through some kind of a Jedi mind trick, compelling her to go.
Pelosi at the hair salon, “do what I say, not what I do. Let them eat cake.” pic.twitter.com/9jgoS3Pk8R— Oskar (@CocoLoc54198418) July 30, 2021
Hair salon stylists protest against Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi: House must pass 3 major pieces of spending legislation this week Sunday shows preview: Pelosi announces date for infrastructure vote; administration defends immigration policies GOP should grab the chance to upend Pelosi's plan on reconciliation MORE. She claims it was a set up, while inside a hair salon, as her mask was not placed on her face. https://t.co/xFPOAgzkcx pic.twitter.com/SXJFIwZkf8— Crossroads Today (@CrossroadsToday) September 4, 2020
Austin’s Democratic mayor, Steve Adler, flew to Mexico for Thanksgiving in pre-vaccine 2020.
"As mayor @MayorAdler urged Austin to stay home, he was vacationing in Mexico following daughter’s wedding"— Maureen Foster (@AlienInMirror) December 3, 2020
"California Gov. @GavinNewsom...attending a large dinner party even as he’s ordering Golden Staters to cancel large Thanksgiving gatherings." pic.twitter.com/x5Voht51hb
Democratic Gov. Andrew CuomoAndrew CuomoThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Arizona recount to show Trump's loss by even wider margin Former co-worker accuses Chris Cuomo of sexual harassment in NYT essay NY health chief criticized over state's COVID-19 response resigns MORE of New York hugged the mayor of Savannah, Ga., without wearing a mask in pre-vaccine 2020.
There are dozens of other examples, but you get the point. The hypocrisy is unmasked, blatant and in broad daylight. And blaming the media for doing its job is a losing hand.
Can anyone lead by example anymore? (It's a rhetorical question.)
Joe Concha is a media and politics columnist for The Hill.