Berated for wearing masks


Vanity Fair says that’s just a fraction of it.

After Congressman Louie Gohmert tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday, Capitol Hill staffers sounded off on the apparent public health nightmare that is working for Republican lawmakers. Responding to reporting on Gohmert’s diagnosis, an aide told Politico’s Jake Sherman that the far-right representative hadn’t just refused to don a mask himself—he’d also “berated” the staff he required to work in the office for wearing them, seeking to, in his words, “be an example to America on how to open up safely.”

Other Republican aides soon chimed in, revealing a reckless and dangerous Capitol Hill office culture among several GOP lawmakers. Several Republican staffers described being discouraged or ridiculed for wearing masks, even as the members of congress forced them to come into the office. “If you asked me to give you a breakdown of mask usage in member offices, it’s nearly universal in Democratic offices based on my random observations,” a tech staffer told Politico. “Within Republican offices, it’s probably under 50%.”

Because somehow it’s a Republican value to sneer at science and urge everyone to take stupid risks and spread a lethal pandemic more widely? They’re going with that?

“Some GOP offices ask why you are wearing a mask, which puts our staff in an awkward position,” the staffer continued. “Do you say because of the pandemic and risk the office taking that as a political stand? Do you take it off to make them feel better?”

The notion of wearing protective face masks during a pandemic being a “political stand” at all is maddening. But it’s especially wild now, months into this once-in-a-century public health crisis, which has been dramatically escalating in the United States in recent weeks. Without a vaccine or proven treatment, masks have been shown to significantly reduce the risk of infection; in fact, as former Obama Medicare and Medicaid Services chief Andy Slavitt has pointed out, universal mask-wearing could help bring the coronavirus to heel in less than two months. But Trump and other Republicans dragged masks into the culture wars, framing mask mandates as an infringement on individual liberties. “I want people to have a certain freedom,” Trump told Fox News’ Chris Wallace earlier this month. 

No he doesn’t. He wants white Republican men to have a certain freedom, and everyone else to obey orders from white Republican men. He sure as hell doesn’t want BLM protesters to have a certain freedom, or workers in chicken processing plants, or immigrants, or prosecutors investigating his corrupt business practices.

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