Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams (D) apologized on Tuesday for appearing maskless while posing for photos with masked schoolchildren last week.
After receiving fierce backlash from political rivals, Abrams told CNN’s Erin Burnett that she had removed the mask for a photo at Glennwood Elementary School in Decatur, Georgia on Friday after wearing one up to the podium. Video of the appearance supported that claim, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
“I followed the protocols. I told the kids I’m taking my mask off because I’m reading to kids who are listening remotely as well, and we were socially distanced — the kids were socially distanced from me,” Abrams said.
“In the excitement after I finished, because it was so much fun working with those kids, I took a picture, and that was a mistake. Protocols matter, and protecting our kids is the most important thing, and anything that can be perceived as undermining that is a mistake, and I apologize,” she added.
The images were circulated after the school’s principal tweeted her thanks along with snaps of a maskless Abrams posing with students for the reading event to honor Black History Month.
Abrams then retweeted them.
Within hours, Republicans ― including gubernatorial rivals Gov. Brian Kemp and former Sen. David Perdue ― attacked both the principal and Abrams, prompting them to delete their tweets, the AJC reported.
Kemp described Abrams’ action as “hypocrisy,” while Perdue declared: “Liberals’ thirst for power during this pandemic has caused enormous damage to our kids, while the elite like Stacey continue living their lives.”
Abrams’ campaign said Sunday that she encourages schools to require masks for students and staff, and that she supports public health requirements that recommend masks in other close or indoor settings, per the AJC. The campaign called the GOP attacks “pathetic, transparent and silly.”