Editorial: Hey Politicians, If You Make A Rule You Must Follow It Too

Widespread anger against Governor Gavin Newsom party without a mask at the French Laundry in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic should have been a lesson absorbed by politicians across California: People expect government officials to play by the rules they make.

Really, it’s nothing new that elected officials are held to a higher standard. After all, they make decisions that affect our lives and our livelihoods. But sentiment grew during the pandemic as officials at all levels of government asked people to make personal sacrifices to control the spread of the virus but appeared to struggle to do the same.

So there was understandable outrage when Newsom, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and San Francisco Mayor London Breed were photographed without masks during Sunday’s NFC Championship game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood. The three Democrats have championed some of the nation’s most restrictive COVID-19 mitigation measures — good rules that have undoubtedly saved lives. Among those state and local rules are requirements that spectators must wear masks at events with large crowds, such as the soccer match – except when “actively eating or drinking”.

Yet in numerous photos taken during Sunday’s game, Newsom, Garcetti and Breed were seen posing with NBA legend Earvin “Magic” Johnson and other maskless VIPs.

Newsom and Garcetti say they only removed their masks for the photos, which is impossible to verify. And we have to ask ourselves, very seriously, what were they thinking?

Surely they knew that these images would strike Californians with hypocrisy and make them wonder if they themselves should stop wearing masks. The images are already being used in the debate, with Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger pointing them out to make the case for scrapping mask rules — a call that could grow louder.

Newsom was unapologetic at a press conference on Monday. “I was trying to be graceful and took the mask off for a brief second.”

He stopped short of calling it a mistake, saying half the word (“I made a mistake—”) before refining his message. His first inclination was correct. This has been a mistake to remove his mask at the game. Perhaps not as damaging as his dinner at the French Laundry (which most likely factored into qualifying for a recall the following year), but still damaging to his credibility and to the efforts of public health officials to bring people to observe infection control measures.

Garcetti apparently made the same miscalculation. His spokesman, Alex Comisar, told a columnist that the mayor “wore the mask all the time and took it off for a few pictures.” Garcetti was holding a mask in the photo Johnson posted to Twitter.

Two years into this nightmarish pandemic, we are all tired of covering our faces. Footage from Sunday’s game showed very few fans wearing masks. But Newsom and Garcetti are among government leaders saying masks are necessary in crowded environments. If they expect people to follow the rule, they have to show that they follow it too.

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