Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams (D) apologized on Tuesday for going maskless while taking a photo with masked school children, calling it a “mistake.”
Abrams, who was visiting an elementary school in Decatur, Ga., at the time, said she followed safety protocols but removed her mask to read to children — and mistakenly left it off.
“I approached the podium with my mask on. I followed the protocols. I told the kids I’m taking my mask off because I’m reading to kids who are listening remotely as well, and we were socially distanced — the kids were socially distanced from me,” Abrams said in an interview on CNN’s “OutFront” with Erin Burnett, expanding on the explanation her campaign provided earlier in the week.
“In the excitement after I finished, because it was so much fun working with those kids, I took a picture, and that was a mistake. Protocols matter, and protecting our kids is the most important thing, and anything that can be perceived as undermining that is a mistake, and I apologize,” she added.
The photos first circulated after the elementary school’s principal tweeted them out while thanking Abrams for visiting the school for a Black History Month event. Abrams also promoted the photos on social media, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
Both Abrams and the principal deleted the social media posts following backlash from Republicans but not before they became fodder for a campaign ad released by Georgia gubernatorial candidate and former Sen. David PerdueDavid PerdueThe Memo: Stacey Abrams faces growing furor over mask-free photo Vernon Jones drops bid for Georgia governor to run for Congress Perdue rolls out video hitting Abrams over maskless photo MORE (R).
The governor’s race in Georgia is sure to be closely watched, not just for the high-profile names involved but also for its competitive Republican primary between Trump-endorsed Perdue and incumbent Georgia Gov. Brian KempBrian KempThe Memo: Stacey Abrams faces growing furor over mask-free photo Vernon Jones drops bid for Georgia governor to run for Congress Perdue rolls out video hitting Abrams over maskless photo MORE (R). Abrams is almost certain to be the Democratic nominee.
The admission by Abrams also comes as several other Democrats have received criticism for not adhering to COVID-19 protocols.
The same day Abrams was explaining the photo, Rep. Elissa SlotkinElissa SlotkinHouse passes sweeping China competition bill Sunday shows preview: US reaffirms support for Ukraine amid threat of Russian invasion Michigan Republicans sue over US House district lines MORE (D-Mich.) also faced backlash from Republicans for posing maskless for a selfie in front of a crowd of masked supporters at a campaign event.
The National Republican Campaign Committee called Slotkin hypocritical in a statement dubbed “Slotkin pulls an Abrams” on Monday.
Other photos from the event, which took place in Michigan, where there is no longer a statewide mask mandate, showed Slotkin masked.
California Gov. Gavin NewsomGavin NewsomCalifornia to end mask mandate for the vaccinated next week The Memo: Stacey Abrams faces growing furor over mask-free photo DHS chief to review security operations in Los Angeles ahead of Super Bowl MORE (D), Los Angeles Mayor Eric GarcettiEric GarcettiThe Memo: Stacey Abrams faces growing furor over mask-free photo DHS chief to review security operations in Los Angeles ahead of Super Bowl Officials highlight mask requirement for fans at Super Bowl MORE (D) and San Francisco Mayor London Breed (D) posed for pictures maskless during the NFL’s NFC championship game between the San Francisco 49ers and Los Angeles Rams. The photos were circulated on social media by NBA icon Magic Johnson.
Newsom’s communications director, Erin Mellon, said in a statement that the governor had taken off his mask for “a few moments.”
“The Governor acknowledged that he took off his mask for a few moments during Sunday’s game. He continues to encourage all Californians to do their part to get through the pandemic and this latest surge, including wearing a mask and getting vaccinated,” Mellon said.
Meanwhile, Garcetti claimed that during the encounter he held his breath.
“I wore my mask the entire game and when people asked for a photograph, I hold my breath and I put [my mask] here and people could see that,” Garcetti said during while holding up his mask. “There’s a zero percent chance of infection from that.”
Updated at 8:40 p.m.