“I made a bad mistake,” California Gov. Gavin Newsom admitted Monday, after news reports showed he attended a birthday dinner earlier this month at the famous French Laundry restaurant in the Napa Valley near San Francisco, even though he has imposed restrictions on restaurants as the coronavirus pandemic rages across the state.
Photos obtained by Fox 11 TV in Los Angeles showed nearly a dozen people sitting together without face masks at the private dinner at the high-priced restaurant, celebrating the 50th birthday of Jason Kinney, an adviser and friend of the governor.
Officials from the California Medical Association also attended the dinner, which a Kinney spokesman said was considered outdoors.
Newsom apologized to the people of California, stating that because he was dining outdoors, he did not violate coronavirus restrictions that he had put in place for the state. But the governor said he showed poor judgment in attending. He went on to say it went against the spirit of state rules as coronavirus cases surge across California.
I’m a Democrat who lives in California and am proud to have Gavin Newsom as my governor. But I agree that his attendance at the birthday dinner was wrong.
At the same time, it’s only fair to point out that the massive rallies — some attended by thousands of people — and White House events that President Trump held during his presidential campaign were many, many times the size of the dinner Newsom attended.
Unfortunately, there are documented cases of people contracting COVID-19 at Trump events — including White House staff and the president himself. The president’s wife and youngest son were also stricken with the disease. Sadly, 2012 Republican presidential contender Herman Cain died of the disease in July after he attended a Trump rally in Tulsa, Okla., where he was photographed without a mask.
Newsom deserves credit for admitting his mistake and apologizing. Trump never apologized for his rallies and White House events. In fact, he kept holding them ever more frequently, until he was holding multiple rallies in the final days before Election Day Nov. 3. Quite a contrast with the governor of California.
But still, the president’s irresponsible behavior doesn’t excuse Newsom’s dinner attendance, even though the dinner was far smaller than any of Trump’s events.
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The governor’s poor judgment only gave critics of his management of the coronavirus more ammunition to criticize him.
Of course, it is unrealistic to expect our leaders to be perfect. And I certainly don’t expect them to be hermits and never leave their homes or come into contact with anyone. But they must not simply say “do as I say.” They must be able to honestly say “do as I do.”
I have always believed that true leaders need to lead by example, regardless of whether they are Democrats, Republicans, independents or members of any other party. Our elected leaders need to show their constituents that they truly understand what ordinary people are going through — especially during tough times.
We don’t want our elected officials and candidates — no matter what their political affiliation —to look hypocritical. Yet Newsom, like Trump and others, fell into this trap with his attendance at the ill-advised birthday dinner.
More than 11.6 million people in the U.S. — including over 1 million in California — have been stricken with COVID-19. The U.S. death toll now tops 250,000, including more than 18,000 people in California.
And although California and much of the country began showing signs of progress in the fight against COVID-19 and some communities began easing restrictions on gatherings, things have clearly taken a turn for the worst in recent weeks.
Admissions at hospitals and intensive care units are up in California and other states. My husband is a doctor who has treated COVID-19 patients. He just told me that he is hearing rumblings that elective surgeries at some hospitals may have to be postponed — as they were in the spring — to ensure enough hospital beds and staff are available for patients stricken with the coronavirus.
Right now the world is united in the hope that coronavirus vaccines that have shown promise in clinical trials will start being distributed soon and can end the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021. But until the pandemic ends, our leaders need to show us by example and by wise policies that they are doing all they can to fight this disease and save our lives. This has nothing to do with politics. It has everything to do with saving lives.