White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Monday dismissed concerns about President Biden violating the District’s mask mandate at an exclusive Georgetown restaurant, saying people should not “overly focus on moments in time.”
Mr. Biden and First Lady Jill Biden were caught on video walking maskless Saturday through the Fiola Mare restaurant alongside masked Secret Service agents, prompting accusations of hypocrisy, given the president’s advocacy of facial coverings.
Asked about the incident by Fox White House correspondent Peter Doocy, Ms. Psaki said, “I think what you’re referring to is a photo of them walking out of a restaurant after they had eaten, masks in hand, where they had not yet put them back on.”
There were indeed photos posted online showing Mr. Biden unmasked outside the establishment, but the video also revealed the Bidens strolling past diners inside the posh Italian seafood restaurant.
Ms. Psaki said the question was missing the big picture.
“So, I would say, of course, there are moments when we all don’t put masks back on as quickly as we should, but I don’t think we should lose the forest through the trees here in that our objective here is to get more people vaccinated,” she said.
The federal government should “make sure that schools and companies around the country can put in place requirements to save more lives and keep people safer, and, you know, not overly focus on moments in time that don’t reflect overarching policy,” she added.
Mr. Doocy followed up by pointing out that the Bidens were also unmasked inside the restaurant.
“He was walking through the restaurant with no mask on,” said Mr. Doocy. “There is a carveout for people under 2 or people who are actively eating or drinking. So I’m just curious why the president was doing this.”
According to the White House transcript, Ms. Psaki replied: “I think I just addressed it, Peter.”
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser reinstated July 31 the mask requirement for those 2 and older inside public settings such as restaurants, bars, gyms, offices and stores regardless of vaccination status, citing an increase in novel coronavirus cases.
The mandate permits those dining at restaurants to take them off while “actively eating or drinking.”
Republicans and others excoriated the Bidens for apparently breaking the masking rule, with House Republicans tweeting: “Joe Biden’s mask policy: Masks for thee, not for me.”