In a separate incident that also drew backlash, Democratic congressional leaders scuttled a welcome dinner for new lawmakers

By Virginia Chamlee
November 17, 2020 05:41 PM
Advertisement
California Gov. Gavin Newsom
| Credit: AGUSTIN PAULLIER/AFP via Getty

California Gov. Gavin Newsom has apologized following his appearance at a birthday party earlier this month, as cases of the novel coronavirus are spiking across the country and health officials implore people to avoid larger gatherings, particularly indoors.

On Friday, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that Newsom had recently attended a dinner alongside members of at least three other households at famed Napa restaurant The French Laundry.

On Monday, Newsom apologized for his attendance at the event while he unveiled a new spate of regulations aimed at slowing the spread of the virus in California, which recently crossed the 1-million case threshold. 

“A few weeks ago, I was asked to go to a friend's 50th birthday ... it was to be an outdoor restaurant ... as soon as I sat down, I realized it was a little larger group than I had anticipated,” Newsom, 53, said. “And, I made a bad mistake. Instead of sitting down, I should have stood up and walked back and got in my car and drove back to my house."

"The spirit of what I’m preaching all the time was contradicted and I’ve got to own that, so I’m going to apologize to you, because I need to preach and practice," he continued.

Newsom isn't the only politician not to follow his own advice regarding social distancing.

In a separate incident, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi canceled a planned in-person dinner for the Democratic freshman class of representatives after a photo of the room where the spaced-out event would be held went viral.

Social media users slammed Pelosi and other lawmakers, arguing the dinner was in bad taste considering they were also publicly cautioning the public to practice social distancing and limit large gatherings.

In response, a Pelosi spokesman said Friday that the event was scuttled with boxed dinners in lieu of an in-person meal.

House Republicans quickly followed suit, turning their dinner for freshman members (originally scheduled to take place in the Capitol) into a carry-out meal.

As cases of the coronavirus disease COVID-19 surge across the country, public health experts have warned against hosting larger gatherings — particularly during the holiday season.

While politicians like Newsom have drawn scrutiny for their choices, in contradiction of what health experts recommend, others have said they are staying safe.

President-elect Joe Biden said this week that for his own Thanksgiving, he plans to follow the guidelines of officials who say no more than 10 people at a gathering at a time.

Biden also said those attending his socially-distanced dinner will be tested for the virus 24 hours prior to the meal.

“I just want to make sure we’re able to be together next Thanksgiving, next Christmas,” Biden told reporters at a news conference on Monday, saying he and wife, Dr. Jill Biden, have been discussing how to host a safe holiday gathering amid the pandemic.

“I would strongly urge — not just for your sake, but for the sake of your children, your mother, your father, your sisters, your brothers, whoever you get together with for Thanksgiving — to think about this,” Biden said.

The White House has meanwhile made headlines for how it is handling — or not handling — the virus around Donald Trump, the first family and their aides.

Starting in early October, the president, First Lady Melania Trump, son Barron and a slew of others in their circle became infected. (Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Trump adviser, subsequently spent several days in the hospital.)

The president, who was himself hospitalized with the virus for three days, returned to the White House in October and urged the public not to let it "dominate" them.

He touted the medical care he received (including an experimental treatment that was not available to the public).

Since then, President Trump has held a number of large events and said the media and his critics were obsessing over the pandemic.

On election night, Trump hosted an in-person party attended by multiple people (including Chief of Staff Mark Meadows) who tested positive for the virus in the days after.

According to a report last week by The Washington Post, more than 130 Secret Service members have recently isolated after either testing positive for the coronavirus or coming into contact with a person infected with the virus. 

And on Sept. 26, more than 200 people attended a ceremony at the White House Rose Garden to announce Trump's nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court.

More than a dozen people in attendance — including the president and Gov. Christie — later tested positive for COVID-19.