Maskless DC Mayor Bowser won't save herself with a media attack

Maskless DC Mayor Bowser won't save herself with a media attack
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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.



 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. 

On cue, some media outlets played the role of stenographer in echoing the mayor's defense



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. 


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. 


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. 




Austin’s Democratic mayor, Steve Adler, flew to Mexico for Thanksgiving in pre-vaccine 2020. 


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.