While governors nationwide have taken steps to curb the spread of COVID-19, including ordering people to wear masks in public and maintain strict social distancing, some of them have subsequently been caught flouting them.
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, recently announced an executive order compelling people to wear face coverings over their mouth and nose when inside retail stores, while using public transportation, and in any other indoor places where people assemble.
“Science shows that face coverings are an effective way to prevent transmission of the virus, but wearing them is also a sign of respect,” Northam said in a statement on May 26 announcing the new mask-wearing policy.
At a press conference that same day, Northam was asked about photos of him circulating on social media that show him not wearing a mask and not observing distancing guidelines, with some comments alleging hypocrisy. One of these photos shows him standing in close proximity to three people at the beach, posing for a selfie, while another shows him at the Virginia Beach boardwalk, also mask-free and surrounded by people.
Northam apologized for his behavior, saying, “On my way to talk with the reporters, some well-wishers came up to me and asked to take pictures. I was not prepared because my mask was in the car. I take full responsibility for that.”
“In the future when I’m out in the public, I will be better prepared,” he said, adding. “We’re all forming new habits and routines, and we’re all adjusting to this new normal.”
New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, faced criticism for a jewelry purchase she made from a store in Albuquerque after she ordered all non-essential businesses to close.
The governor’s office said the transaction was done remotely and the goods collected via curbside pickup, adding that the purchase didn’t violate the order although shuttered non-essential businesses like jewelry shops were not authorized for curbside pickup at the time, according to Albuquerque television station KRQE.
Critics, including state Republicans, called Grisham’s behavior hypocritical.
“This was really disgraceful, especially since so many people have been hurting for so long,” said Steve Pearce, chairman of the state Republican Party, according to The Associated Press.
Grisham’s office appeared to acknowledge the unusual nature of the transaction but suggested it also served to support the local economy.
“Of course the governor has been telling people to stay home to the greatest extent possible, (it’s) also true she’s been urging New Mexicans to find ways to support local businesses,” Grisham’s office said, according to The Associated Press.
Writing on Twitter on May 30 about a response from Grisham’s office to questions about the jewelry purchase, the New Mexico Republican Party said: “The governor won’t answer to New Mexicans why she considers herself to be above the law.”
“While business owners and families suffered under her public health order, she was buying jewelry,” they wrote.
The two governors are among a league of political leaders who have taken heat for what some have characterized as a “do as I say, not as I do” attitude.
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador recently said he was pained by having to social distance from supporters at rallies. He then raised eyebrows by making an exception by shaking the hand of the elderly mother of imprisoned drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, saying it would have been disrespectful not to.
“It’s very difficult humanly,” he said. “I’m not a robot.”
Another to grab headlines was the case of New Zealand’s health minister, David Clark, who made a self-effacing apology after breaking the country’s lockdown by driving his family to the beach.
“I’ve been an idiot, and I understand why people will be angry with me,” Clark said. He also earlier acknowledged driving to a park near his home to go mountain biking, even as the government asked people to make unprecedented sacrifices by staying in their homes.
Clark offered to resign but kept his job due to the ongoing crisis.