Texas Democrat legislators aren’t slinking away quietly after their mask-less, charter-jet junket to DC became a Covid-19 “super-spreader” event. One is arguing that the group broke no rules and didn’t know cases were surging.
“TSA exempts private, non-commercial flights from the mask requirement,” state Representative Donna Howard said on Thursday in a Twitter post. The lawmakers “had been meeting at the Capitol without masks for several months, and we continued that practice, as we had been fully vaccinated.”
Unfortunately, the spike in infections from the delta variant became apparent immediately after our flight. Had we known at the time, we would have worn masks. 2/
— Donna Howard (@DonnaHowardTX) July 22, 2021
Howard and her colleagues have been criticized for jetting to Washington sans masks when they fled Texas earlier this month to block votes on Republican-backed bills that they couldn’t defeat. Six of the Democrats, including Howard, have since caught Covid-19, and White House and congressional staffers tested positive after attending events with the group, including meetings with Vice President Kamala Harris, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other party leaders.
“It was a political stunt, and it turned into a coronavirus super-spreader event, and I’m sure they still consider themselves heroes,” Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyoming) said on Wednesday.
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Howard may have intended to defuse some of the blowback by defending the mask-free flight, but social media observers weren’t buying her story. Some, including charter pilot Ben Pegram, pointed out that masks are required on such flights under CDC guidelines and there is no such TSA exemption.
Perhaps you can clear this up. Did anyone on that plane own the plane or was it chartered through a separate company? If it was chartered, it is not a private flight, it is most definitely a commercial flight and not exempt from the CDC order requiring masks.
— Ben Pegram (@BenPegram2) July 22, 2021
The lawmaker was quickly ratioed on Twitter, as well. Commenters mocked Howard, saying she “doubled down on being wrong” and incurred a “debt to the truth” with every lie. Others noted the hypocrisy of imposing rules on others while violating CDC guidelines herself.
“You should respect human rights and not be a hypocrite,” podcast host Stephan Livera tweeted.
You should respect human rights and not be a hypocrite
— Stephan Livera (@stephanlivera) July 22, 2021
The apparent disconnect between supposed beliefs and actions was all the more glaring on Thursday, when Howard called for Texas to “follow the science” and impose “universal mask-wearing.”
Critics responded by posting pictures of Howard and her fellow Democrats on their private flight and on a bus without masks. One commenter quipped, “I’m assuming someone photoshopped you into this super-spreader event.” Another asked, “Do you people have mirrors, or you just lack shame?”
Perhaps not sure that her exemption explanation would suffice, Howard added, “Unfortunately, the spike in infections from Delta variant became apparent immediately after our flight. Had we known at the time, we would have worn masks.”
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It’s not clear what Howard meant by “immediately,” since her mask-less traveling party rode charter buses together before and after arriving in the nation’s capital. Nor is it clear how elected officials who make the laws were unaware that Covid-19 infections had been rising for weeks, amid spread of the Delta variant – then became aware right after flying to Washington with a case of beer.
“It’s a lie that it wasn’t clear, and besides, you were still in violation of federal regulations,” Twitter user Gerry Dales said. “You have no excuses, and you deserve all the fallout you get from this ill-considered publicity stunt.”
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