Congressman Who Long Resisted Wearing a Mask Tests Positive for COVID-19

"If I get it, you'll never see me without a mask," the lawmaker said last month

U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert
Rep. Louie Gohmert. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty

Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert — who regularly declined to wear a mask amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic — has contracted the respiratory illness, he said Wednesday.

The 66-year-old Republican tested positive for the coronavirus disease COVID-19 ahead of a planned trip to the Lone Star state Wednesday with President Donald Trump, according to a statement Gohmert shared on Twitter.

He tested positive for the coronavirus on Wednesday morning during a pre-flight screening at the White House before he was set to board Air Force One to head to West Texas, where the president is fundraising and touring an oil rig.

Gohmert told local TV station KETK that he will isolate himself for the next 10 days after testing positive and added that he was asymptomatic.

The lawmaker responded to criticism that he hasn't been wearing a mask. "A lot of people have made a big deal out of my not wearing a mask a lot," he told KETK, "but in the last week or two I have worn a mask more than I have in the last four months."

However, an aide suggested to Politico that staffers, who were required to work in person at Gohmert's office, were "berated" if they wore masks.

(A spokeswoman for him did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.)

U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert
Anna Moneymaker-Pool/Getty

A senior Republican aide told CNN last week that Gohmert's test results led to "a lot of staffers" in Congress being ordered to get tests before they could resume normal activity.

According to CNN, Gohmert's office notified Republican leaders who in turn notified medical staff at the House of Representatives and the remaining individuals who need to receive further notification.

Gohmert, an eight-term incumbent, told CNN last month that he hadn't worn a face mask because he was tested for the virus.

"I don't have the coronavirus — turns out as of yesterday I've never had it," he said then. "But if I get it, you'll never see me without a mask."

Gohmert is the latest in a growing number of White House aides and politicians who have tested positive for the virus.

The president's national security adviser, Robert O’Brien, was confirmed to have the coronavirus earlier this week, becoming the highest-ranking administration official to contract the illness.

Other lawmakers who have been infected include Reps. Mario Diaz Balart, Morgan Griffith, Ben McAdams and Neal Dunn, along with Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul.

Before his diagnosis was confirmed, Gohmert attended the high-profile Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday where Attorney General William Barr testified for hours, and both were seen unmasked walking together at the Capitol in a video shared by Hill reporter Olivia Beavers.

"Rep. Gohmert, who was without a mask, stood outside the men’s bathroom where Barr went before he walked into the 'hearing' room," Beavers wrote. "Once out, Gohmert approached the AG and exchanged a comment or two. Would say from memory, they were within arms length."

A Justice Department spokeswoman said Barr will be tested for coronavirus on Wednesday, per Politico.

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