It was a 'mistake': Abrams apologizes for maskless photo with schoolchildren

Brynn Anderson/AP Photo

Stacey Abrams apologized on Tuesday, after the Georgia gubernatorial candidate posted and deleted a photo of her smiling, maskless, surrounded by masked elementary-school children earlier this week.

Abrams said she followed protocols initially, walking up to the podium with her mask on. The Georgia Democrat, who was at Decatur Elementary School to promote reading and Black History Month, said she then explained to the students why she was removing her face covering to read — pointing out that she was socially distanced from the kids and that she was also reading for two other classrooms tuned in virtually.

But her next move, joining the children for a photo without her mask, was a mistake, Abrams said on CNN.

“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,” Abrams said. “Protocols matter, and protecting our kids is the most important thing. And anything perceived as undermining that is a mistake, and I apologize.”

Abrams is among a handful of Democrats who have faced criticism for maskless photos posted on social media recently. Republican critics have taken the opportunity to slam members of the other party, calling them hypocrites for not following the pandemic mitigation measures they put in place.

Former Sen. David Perdue, a Republican who’s also running to be governor and has vowed to end mandates if elected, blasted both Abrams and Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, a fellow Republican, in a statement after the photo circulated.

“Abrams’ hypocrisy knows no bounds,” Perdue said, adding that Kemp had “failed students and parents by allowing liberal school districts to force mandates upon them.”

Abrams, who supports masks in schools, also said on Tuesday that it wasn’t time to talk about lifting mask requirements for schoolchildren in Georgia, a state with one of the country’s lowest vaccination rates.

“Our job is to protect children. And I know that educators and parents have to balance protection and education, and that is a complicated issue,” she said on CNN. “I think each governor has to evaluate what’s happening where they are. We have to look to the CDC, but we also have to recognize we are shifting from pandemic to endemic. Some states will get there faster than others.

“My responsibility, if I am lucky enough to be the next governor of Georgia, is to look at the science, to follow the protocols and to set the right example. Right now that example is that we wear masks whenever possible, but we recognize that.”

Abrams added that the next stage of the pandemic couldn’t be focused on “scoring political points,” as leaders navigate the “complicated” path ahead.

Gov. Gavin Newsom of California andLos Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti also faced blowback last week after posing maskless for photos with former NBA star Magic Johnson. Garcetti, Biden’s nominee to be U.S. ambassador to India, took a different approach in responding to critics, telling reporters that he held his breath during photo-ops.