Politicians eat own words after dining out, taking trips

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éDaniel Kim/Sacramento Bee

FILE - In this Sept. 23, 2020, file photo, California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks at a news conference at Cal Expo in Sacramento, Calif. Several California politicians have been called out in the last month for their dining choices that violate the state's rules aimed at slowing the spread of coronavirus. Gov. Gavin Newsom, San Francisco Mayor London Breed and Los Angeles County supervisor all dined outdoors, conflicting with their own messaging to stay home. (Daniel Kim/The Sacramento Bee via AP, Pool, File)

SAN FRANCISCO – Their messaging has been clear: wear a mask, stay 6 feet apart, and most importantly: stay home!

But their actions aren’t living up to the rhetoric, creating a real political problem for some of the most vocal leaders in California’s fight to contain the coronavirus.

First came Gov. Gavin Newsom, who won plaudits for issuing the first statewide stay-at-home order in the U.S. back in March. He broke the state rules when he and his wife were caught dining with 10 others at the posh French Laundry restaurant in Napa in early November with lobbyists and others from numerous different households, sitting close together, mask-less.

San Francisco’s mayor, London Breed, was at the same $350-a-plate restaurant a day later, dining with a San Francisco socialite and six others. Breed has also won accolades for imposing some of the strictest rules in California, keeping coronavirus rates relatively low. Her spokespeople haven’t responded to queries about how many households were there — state rules cap those at three. Her spokesman rubbed salt in the wound by saying she has been trying to support local restaurants. The French Laundry is 60 miles (97 kilometers) out of town.

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo on Tuesday fessed up to an outdoor Thanksgiving dinner at his parents’ home with people from five different households after tweeting that everyone should just stay home this Thanksgiving. And a Los Angeles County supervisor headed to dinner outside a restaurant hours after she voted against a measure that would have kept outdoor dining open, calling it “a most dangerous situation.”

“We’re all really feeling the strain of this, but there is really that element of hypocrisy. So many who are struggling right now, and then you see them going to these very fancy social affairs and mixing with folks outside their immediate bubble,” said Melinda Jackson, a political science professor at San Jose State University.

Other Democrats have also been caught flouting their own guidance. Austin, Texas, Mayor Steve Adler was forced to apologize Wednesday after a newspaper reported that he was in Mexico with family in November as he urged people to stay home amid worsening coronavirus caseloads, at one point recording a video during the trip in which he told residents back home that now was “not the time to relax.” The mayor of Denver, Michael Hancock, asked residents to “forgive decisions that are borne of my heart and not my head" after traveling to Mississippi for Thanksgiving while he told others to stay home.

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany called out what she called “Democrat hypocrisy" Wednesday as she displayed images of the same politicians.