Over the past year, at least 14 Democratic elected officials serving at the local, state, and federal levels have been called out for publicly and privately flouting both official restrictions and general best public-health practices for stopping the spread of the coronavirus.
As COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths surged nationwide in 2020, Democrats criticized President Donald Trump and other Republicans for continuing to hold indoor gatherings, such as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's series of State Department parties that a combined 900 guests were invited to and the White House's 20 holiday parties
And as the more than year-long battle with the pandemic dragged on into the fall and winter, many Democratic politicians were also accused of falling short in adhering to official guidelines, like avoiding big indoor gatherings and holiday travel, that they urged their constituents to follow.
Few Democratic politicians have attended anything comparable to the now-infamous late September nomination ceremony for Justice Amy Coney Barrett at the White House that became a coronavirus superspreader. But many have contradicted their own guidance or even official rules they issued aimed at preventing the transmission of COVID-19.
Liberal and conservative critics alike have expressed a mix of confusion, disappointment, and anger over what they see as blatant hypocrisy from politicians acting as if they're above the rules — and endangering public health in the process.
"These hypocrites have to know their behavior undermines their credibility and helps spread the virus they say they want to fight. The only possible conclusion is that they just don't care," New York Post columnist Karol Markowicz, who has kept a running tally of politicians defying COVID-19 restrictions and guidance on Twitter, wrote in a December column.
Now, as the Delta variant is driving a nationwide increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations primarily among unvaccinated Americans, many leaders are reimposing indoor mask mandates and other restrictions — and at least two mayors have already been caught appearing to violate their cities' own guidelines.
In November 2020, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that Breed attended an open-air gathering, a birthday party for socialite Goretti Lo Liu, at the French Laundry on November 7.
"We all need to do our part, now more than ever, to stop the spread of COVID-19," Breed tweeted on November 28. "That means doubling down on the things we've all been doing: wearing a mask, keeping your distance from others, not gathering with people outside your household, and washing your hands frequently."
While the dinner she attended didn't violate any of the state or county's health guidelines at the time, many criticized her for going to the event after she urged city residents to avoid big gatherings.
"This criticism is fair. It doesn't matter whether something is technically allowed or not — I need to hold myself to a higher standard and I will do better," Breed tweeted in response to a Chronicle op-ed calling out politicians who flouted their own COVID-19 guidance.
In September of 2021, Breed was filmed and photographed not wearing a mask during a reunion performance on R&B group Tony! Toni! Toné! at the Black Cat in San Francisco, in violation of the city's mask mandate.
In response to questions from reporters, Breed chastised the press for focusing on her lack of mask instead of the "historic"event, emphasized that everyone in the venue was vaccinated, and argued it's "not realistic" for people to put their masks on and off while eating and drinking.
The city's website says the indoor mask mandate, which went into effect on August 2, is necessary "to protect others and to help healthcare workers."
"When the spirit moves you because you are watching history in the making, Bay Area royalty perform, I don't know about you but I'm not going to turn around and look for where my mask is or look to make sure I'm picking up a drink," Breed said. "I'm just going to let the spirit move me."
Bowser drew scrutiny for traveling from Washington, DC, to Wilmington, Delaware, on November 6 to celebrate Biden and Vice president-elect Kamala Harris' presidential election win.
Despite Delaware being classified as a "high risk" state per the city's criteria, Bowser defended the trip as "essential" travel.
"I do a lot of things to advance the interests of the District of Columbia. Some of them are formal and some of them are informal, but all of them are necessary," Bowser told The Washington Post.
The District of Columbia subsequently relaxed travel and quarantine regulations after Bowser's trip.
Then, in July, Bowser reinstated an indoor mask mandate, including for fully vaccinated residents, amid rising coronavirus cases in D.C. driven by the Delta variant.
The Washington Examiner then reported that the day the mask mandate went back into effect, July 31, Bowser officiated a wedding at The Line, a hotel in Adams Morgan, featuring hundreds of maskless guests.
"On Saturday, July 31st, Mayor Bowser officiated an outdoor, rooftop wedding ceremony, followed by an indoor dinner. The Mayor wore a mask indoors in compliance with the mandate, and the organizers and venue staff worked to create a safe environment for the staff and guests," the mayor's office said in a statement to Fox 5 DC.
Whitmer apologized on May 23 for violating her own administration's social distancing rules at a restaurant outing with several people in East Lansing.
A photo obtained and published by right-wing website Breitbart showed Whitmer sitting in close proximity to 12 other people. The gathering was in violation of Michigan's Department of Health order stating that restaurants can only seat groups of six people together and must keep tables six feet apart, according to The Detriot News.
"Throughout the pandemic, I've been committed to following public health protocols," Whitmer said in a statement. "Yesterday, I went with friends to a local restaurant. As more people arrived, the tables were pushed together. Because we were all vaccinated, we didn't stop to think about it. In retrospect, I should have thought about it. I am human. I made a mistake, and I apologize."
On November 9, Adler recorded a Facebook video encouraging constituents to stay home without revealing that he was addressing the city from a time-share in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, that he flew to on a private jet with eight others, the Austin American-Statesman and KVUE reported on Wednesday.
"We need to stay home if you can, do everything you can to keep the numbers down. This is not the time to relax. We are going to be looking really closely," Adler said in the video. "We may have to close things down if we are not careful."
Prior to the Cabo trip, Adler also hosted a wedding for his daughter that was attended by 20 guests.
Despite directly contradicting the guidance he gave to residents, Adler insisted that both the vacation and wedding celebration complied with all applicable COVID-19 restrictions in Austin and Texas overall, the Statesman reported.
"There was no recommendation for people not to travel during that period of time," Adler told the Statesman. "Someone could look at me and say, 'He traveled.' But what they could not say is that I traveled at a time when I was telling other people not to travel."
Newsom was slammed for attending a large indoor gathering — a birthday party for one of his top advisors, lobbyist Jason Kinney — at The French Laundry, an upscale restaurant with three Michelin stars in Napa Valley.
The San Francisco Chronicle reported that the November 6 gathering involved 12 people total from different households, while the state's own guidance limited gatherings to people from no more than three households.
Newsom's representatives initially said the gathering was outside and didn't violate any public health guidelines, but photos obtained and published by Fox 11 in Los Angeles showed the group gathering in a semi-indoor/outdoor space inside without masks on.
Newsom later apologized for attending the event.
"While our family followed the restaurant's health protocols and took safety precautions, we should have modeled better behavior and not joined the dinner," he said in a statement.
Kuehl was seen eating outdoors at Il Forno Trattoria in Santa Monica just hours after voting to ban outdoor dining in Los Angeles County, Fox 11 reported, a move that befuddled and angered many local businesses.
"She did dine al fresco at Il Forno on the very last day it was permissible," a spokesperson told Fox 11. "She loves Il Forno, has been saddened to see it, like so many restaurants, suffer from a decline in revenue. She ate there, taking appropriate precautions, and sadly will not dine there again until our Public Health Orders permit."
Liccardo attended an outdoor family Thanksgiving dinner alongside people from five separate households, a violation of state regulations limiting indoor gatherings to three households.
"Cases are spiking, in part because we're letting our guard (and masks) down with family & friends. Let's cancel the big gatherings this year and focus on keeping each other safe," he tweeted
The mayor apologized for the lapse in judgment in a statement and again to Fox News' Neil Cavuto in a December 2 appearance, saying that he was unaware of the state rules.
"I made a mistake, I own it, and I should have been more astute to the specifics of the regulations," he told Cavuto.
He added: "I got a big family, I'm one of five kids, and our Thanksgiving usually has 25 people. Under the state rules, you can only have three households so we had too many households there ... I should have known better, and I should have done better."
Feinstein, 87, has been criticized for not displaying proper mask usage on multiple occasions in the Capitol where dozens of lawmakers have been infected with COVID-19.
Feinstein was photographed without a mask at Dulles International Airport in Washington, DC, in late September. Then, she was seen again with her face uncovered in the Senate's hallways in November, talking in close proximity to other people after a hearing featuring testimony from major tech CEOs.
In another incident that drew particular scrutiny in October, Feinstein hugged GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, without a mask on at the conclusion of Barrett's confirmation hearings.
The California senator has called on Congress to condition the receipt of federal aid on state governments imposing mask mandates, and for the Federal Aviation Administration to require mask-wearing in airports and on airplanes and public transportation.
On November 13, House Democratic leadership announced that they were holding an indoor dinner for incoming members of Congress — even as many lawmakers encouraged Americans to stay home and not gather in large groups for Thanksgiving.
Pelosi told NBC News' Leigh Ann Caldwell that the Capitol's attending physician, Brian Monahan, had approved of the dinner, tables would be spaced out, and the room would be properly ventilated, but it still sparked criticism.
After massive backlash on social media, Pelosi's staff announced they would cancel the sit-down dinner and have members pick up their meals instead.
On the Republican side, senators have continued to hold weekly caucus lunches, USA Today noted.
Since then, Monahan has advised members to avoid all indoor gatherings, receptions, and dinners with those outside their immediate households.
Hancock flew from Colorado to Mississippi to spend Thanksgiving with his daughter and wife, who was already there. Meanwhile, his office was urging Denver residents to stay home in order to curb the spread of COVID-19, 9News reported.
Before his flight on November 25, Hancock's official Twitter account shared a message (which is still up), encouraging Denver residents to "stay home as much as you can, especially if you're sick," "host virtual gatherings instead of in-person dinners," and "avoid travel, if you can."
Hancock apologized for traveling over the holiday, saying that he booked his flight before the Centers for Disease Control issued guidance encouraging Americans not to travel for Thanksgiving.
"I recognize that my decision has disappointed many who believe it would have been better to spend Thanksgiving alone," he said in a statement. "As a public official, whose conduct is rightly scrutinized for the message it sends to others, I apologize to the residents of Denver who see my decision as conflicting with the guidance to stay at home for all but essential travel. I made my decision as a husband and father, and for those who are angry and disappointed, I humbly ask you to forgive decisions that are borne of my heart and not my head."
Cuomo, who wrote a book about and won an International Emmy award for his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, raised eyebrows when he indicated in a November 23 radio interview that he would be hosting two of his daughters and his 89-old mother for Thanksgiving after previously telling New Yorkers to stay home and not hold big gatherings.
A spokesman for Cuomo subsequently told Insider's Jake Lahut that Cuomo had canceled the planned Thanksgiving dinner.
Adams, a Democratic candidate for New York City's mayoral race in 2021, held a crowded fundraiser in an Upper West Side eatery as the state encouraged New Yorkers to limit indoor gatherings.
Cuomo and other state officials have particularly singled out indoor gatherings as a "major cause" of COVID-19 outbreaks and clusters in the state, Gothamist and the Daily News noted, with the state now limiting indoor gatherings to 10 people.
While indoor dining was then permitted at 25% capacity in New York City, the Daily News reported that many attendees at Adams' fundraiser were not consistently wearing masks during the event.
Adams declined to comment at the event itself, but his spokesman subsequently told the outlet that the attendees "were complying with the rules and it's important to make sure our small businesses are supported as long as it's in line with the health policies of the city of New York."
The Daily News also spotted Adams' deputy, Lewis-Martin attending a crowded indoor gathering in Brooklyn — a surprise birthday party for construction industry leader Carlo Scissura — where she was photographed without a mask.
Lewis-Martin initially told the Daily News that she wasn't concerned about contracting or spreading COVID-19 since she already had the disease and tested positive for antibodies. But she later apologized for not wearing a mask, saying, "As a public figure in Brooklyn, I know it is my responsibility to lead by example."
Lightfoot defended her appearance at the rally to MSNBC's Stephanie Ruhle.
"Yes, there are times when we actually do need to have ... relief and come together, and I felt like that was one of those times," she said, according to the Chicago Tribune. "That crowd was gathered whether I was there or not, but this has been a super hard year on everyone. Everyone feels traumatized."
Shortly after the street celebration, Lightfoot's official account tweeted, "Wear a mask. Listen to science" on November 9.