A photo showing the setup for a planned dinner for incoming freshmen members of Congress went viral on Friday, with commentators on both the right and the left sharply critical of the visible flouting of Covid-19 recommendations.
The original tweet by NBC News congressional correspondent Leigh Ann Caldwell showed a photo of the Capitol’s Statuary Hall, with tables set up with gold tablecloths and burgundy-and-pink floral arrangements. The tables did appear to be spaced at least 6 feet apart, but the indoor setting plus the presumption that more than one member would be seated per table raised many eyebrows.
The quote Caldwell got from Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi claiming safety — “it’s very spaced” — didn’t seem to assuage any concerns.
House Dem and GOP leaders are holding respective dinners for new members.
— Leigh Ann Caldwell (@LACaldwellDC) November 13, 2020
Caldwell’s photo was met with immediate and loud condemnation. MSNBC’s Chris Hayes was direct and succinct, saying, “cancel your precious dinner, you maniacs. my god,” and many, many others agreed with him.
cancel your precious dinner, you maniacs. my god. https://t.co/6ofrXjqCns
— Chris Hayes (@chrislhayes) November 13, 2020
Terrible and embarrassing for all involved. https://t.co/fd8CnAIumL
— billy eichner (@billyeichner) November 13, 2020
Please cancel these in-person dinners, @SpeakerPelosi & @kevinomccarthy to keep everyone safe from #covid19 – yourselves, your new members, servers, the Capitol police and all of their families and contacts. And, to show public health leadership. https://t.co/HC1AOYYBgp
— Chelsea Clinton (@ChelseaClinton) November 13, 2020
“I never thought the virus would eat my face” says people who attended the “virus eating people faces” orientation dinner. https://t.co/6MlrdeKYNN
— Elie Mystal (@ElieNYC) November 13, 2020
The outrage was especially pronounced considering recent recommendations from numerous government officials that families cancel or sharply limit their Thanksgiving plans. For many, the holiday later this month will be the first time they have seen their family members in person in months, and Congress’ dinner plans struck them as tone-deaf and encouraging Americans to ignore the recommendations.
Come the fuck on. So many people in public health are working SO HARD to get people to stay safe & not see their families at Thanksgiving, and this is what political leadership does? No cranberry sauce for you, but banquet in a gilded chamber for us. No really, totes safe! https://t.co/RZx6rEwMvA
— Rebecca Traister (@rtraister) November 13, 2020
This is an incredibly bad idea. And even if they have epic ventilation and no one gets sick it sends a terrible message to people around the country who will reasonably take it as a signal that getting together with family is probably fine. Terrible decision. https://t.co/A5ywQsnUDM
— Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) November 13, 2020
This is setting such a bad example. Doctors are asking Americans to skip family gatherings for Thanksgiving to slow the spread but sure, enjoy the golden tables in a Stat Hall, a room without working windows. https://t.co/axHH1kzs5F
— Jackie Kucinich (@JFKucinich) November 13, 2020
Sorry, Dem leadership, but this is a mistake. No more parties for a while. Please folks, use your heads. https://t.co/0TDA3RK6y7
— David Rothkopf (@djrothkopf) November 13, 2020
This strikes me as a bad idea, a dangerous idea. It’s also exactly the wrong message to send to America as the pandemic spikes. https://t.co/ZKL6Nk9jq9
— Dan Rather (@DanRather) November 13, 2020
Nope. Set the example. https://t.co/A7KAFeZ9IL
— Linda Holmes Thinks You’re Doing Great (@lindaholmes) November 13, 2020
Literally read the room https://t.co/gSOIMHJzuC
— James Poniewozik (@poniewozik) November 13, 2020
Superspreading: It’s Not Just For Republicans Anymore https://t.co/9fdpdGtDpT
— Current Affairs (@curaffairs) November 13, 2020
Don’t. Do. This. Please.
— Wajahat “Wears a Mask Because of a Pandemic” Ali (@WajahatAli) November 13, 2020
Look, you can’t spend time with your family for Thanksgiving, but please just shut up about it and let our elected leaders enjoy their dinner… https://t.co/xwXSDvCTM7
— Steve Krakauer (@SteveKrak) November 13, 2020
There were 150,000 new COVID cases yesterday. The country needs to shut down. Cancel this baroque shindig and pass a stimulus. https://t.co/k70P8BODuD
— Public Citizen (@Public_Citizen) November 13, 2020
Just a few minutes ago, Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill tweeted a defense of the dinner plans, noting that they were “strictly follow[ing] the guidance of the Office of Attending Physician” and had modified the event to allow attendees to take their meals to-go.
Our office strictly follows the guidance of the Office of Attending Physician, including for this dinner. To be a further model for the nation, this event has been modified to allow Members-elect to pick up their meals to go in a socially-distanced manner. https://t.co/s2pSyUOCbm
— Drew Hammill (@Drew_Hammill) November 13, 2020
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