Two officials from the California Medical Association were among the guests at a dinner with Gov. Gavin Newsom this month, the group confirmed, as newly published photographs showed the meal taking place inside.
A spokesman for the California Medical Association confirmed to news outlets that CEO Dustin Corcoran and Janus Norman, a senior vice president, were at the table during the birthday celebration at the French Laundry in Napa Valley earlier this month.
The association, which represents tens of thousands of doctors, has recently posted messages on social media urging people to stay home and stay safe.
“The dinner was held in accordance with state and county guidelines,” the spokesman told news outlets in a statement. The association didn’t respond to a request for more information.
Fox 11 published pictures of the soiree that showed the group of about a dozen people, none wearing masks, sitting in an area with three walls and sliding glass doors. The doors were closed because the group was so loud, a witness told the outlet. Newsom and his office had claimed the dinner was outdoors.
The group was celebrating the birthday of Jason Kinney, a lobbyist.
The pictures ignited fresh condemnation of Newsom and other diners.
The watchdog group Consumer Watchdog shared one of the pictures along with quotes from Charles Johnson, the husband of a black woman who died in childbirth.
“The head of the doctors lobby should know better than to be at an undistanced, unmasked dinner in the middle of a pandemic. We are terribly disappointed that our multiple requests for a meeting with the governor have been denied for nearly a year after announcing the Fairness Act initiative and yet the governor is ear-to-ear with the Medical Association and their lobbyists in the middle of the pandemic,” Johnson said.
“Pop Quiz: In California, $350 is equal to: (𝐚) one week’s unemployment check for millions of California workers (𝐛) the cost of Gavin Newsom’s dinner at Napa’s French Laundry restaurant (𝐜) both of the above,” state Sen. Shannon Grove, a Republican, added in a tweet.
The office of Newsom, a Democrat, told diners last month to wear masks whenever around non-household members and put masks on between bites of food.
Newsom apologized for attending the dinner.
“As soon as I sat down at the larger table, I realized it was a little larger group than I had anticipated. And I made a bad mistake—instead of sitting down, I should have stood up and walked back on my car and drove back to my house. Instead, I chose to sit there with my wife and a number of other couples that were outside the household,” Newsom told a briefing on Monday.
“You can quibble about the guidelines, etc., etc. But the spirit of what I’m preaching all the time was contradicted. And I got to own that. And so I want to apologize to you. Because I need to preach and practice, not just preach and not practice, and I’ve done my best to do that. We’re all human, we all fall short sometimes. We’ve been out and I think for three times, since, in fact, I know it’s been three times, because I remember all of those dinners very, very vividly, since February, just three times. Twice with my wife by myself outdoors, and then this one occasion with a larger group.”
The dinner did not violate the guidelines at the time but flew in the face of recommendations Newsom has made to state residents.
Newsom this week announced more restrictive face covering rules that require anyone leaving their home to wear a mask, with limited exceptions. He also said 94 percent of the state would be under the strictest guidelines, which include having most indoor businesses close and most schools conduct classes remotely.
Business owners told Fox 11 that the Newsom dinner rubbed them the wrong way in light of the restrictions.
“They tell us to be this way. They tell us to be that way. We comply and then officials are out doing their dining, not to name names, at the French Laundry and they’re having dinner without a mask,” said Larrisa Love, the owner of Larissa Love Cosmetics in Santa Monica. “They want us to close down again. Are they out of their mind? It makes no business sense. It doesn’t make sense. This is not the American dream.”