President Joe Biden violated his own mask mandate by going maskless on federal property Wednesday night because he was taking part in a celebration, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.
"I think he was celebrating an evening of a historic day in our country," Psaki told reporters during a briefing Thursday.
Biden signed an executive order on this first day in office mandating people wear masks in federal buildings and on federal lands. Heads of agencies should immediately move to require compliance, the order states.
Hours later, Biden went without a mask while at the memorial in Washington.
"Certainly he signed the mask mandate because it's a way to send a message to the American public about the importance of wearing masks, how it can save tens of thousands of lives. We take a number of COVID precautions here in terms of testing, social distancing, mask wearing ourselves, as we do every single day. But I don't know that I have more for you on it than that," Psaki told reporters.
Asked whether Biden was setting a good example by going without a mask, she added: "I think the power of his example is also the message he sends by signing 25 executive orders, including almost half of them related to COVID."
"The requirements that we're all under every day here to ensure we're sending that message to the public. Yesterday was a historic moment in our history. He was inaugurated as president of the United States, surrounded by his family. We take a number of precautions. I think we have bigger issues to worry about at this moment in time," she said.
Biden repeatedly on the campaign trail knocked former President Donald Trump for not wearing a mask.
Biden also took off his mask to speak at the White House on Thursday, when he announced a national COVID-19 strategy and signed about two dozen more executive orders.