Hours after signing an executive order mandating masks be worn on federal property, President Joe Biden was seen without wearing a face mask at the Lincoln Memorial during the Celebrating America special on Wednesday. Conservative commentators immediately jumped on this, accusing Biden of being a hypocrite, even though Biden not wearing a face mask outdoors was not a violation of the executive order. The View co-host Megan McCain also criticized Biden for not wearing a mask during that segment.
"We have President Biden yesterday, him and his family, they’re not wearing masks after mandating and requiring people to wear masks on federal property," McCain said during Thursday's episode of The View. "He and his family were not wearing masks out. The rules for three, but not for me … I was really disappointed he wasn't wearing a mask."
FAUCI SPEAKS FREELY ON COVID-19 PLAN: Dr. Fauci said Thursday it’s “liberating” to discuss facts behind coronavirus without fear of “repercussions” – the co-hosts react and discuss Pres. Biden’s new strategy to turnaround the pandemic. https://t.co/1DyxLBVWuH pic.twitter.com/iFYX5f3bYd— The View (@TheView) January 22, 2021
Joy Behar suggested to Sunny Hostin McCain was making a "false equivalency." Hostin then pointed out that it was President Donald Trump who made mask-wearing a partisan issue. "Trump politicized the virus in ways I don't think any of us would have imagined. He politicized wearing masks," Hostin said, adding that Trump should be blamed for people being afraid to get the vaccine and for others thinking the virus is a hoax.
On Wednesday, after being sworn in, Biden signed an executive order, which states that people in federal buildings have to follow the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines on slowing the spread of COVID-19. While the CDC's guidelines do ask people to wear masks in most cases, the agency notes that masks do not have to be worn outdoors if social distancing is possible. During the Lincoln Memorial segment, Biden was outside and the closest person to him was about six feet away, Snopes points out. The executive order also leaves it up to the federal agencies that administer the buildings to decide how to enforce the mask rules. The Lincoln Memorial is run by the National Parks Service, which has not criticized Biden for not wearing a face mask.
The footage of Biden not wearing a mask at the Lincoln Memorial while cellist Yo-Yo Ma performed was published by journalist Timothy Burke, who shared the C-SPAN broadcast. He reported that Biden did wear a mask before the footage began and immediately put it back on after the segment was over.
Here's the whole thing. I confirmed that there was a PA speaker in there with the program feed, so Biden was indeed hearing Yo-Yo Ma's performance as it was being aired.
He wore his mask immediately prior to this and put it back on as soon as he finished his TV hit. pic.twitter.com/H9yOT5QXaV— Timothy Burke (@bubbaprog) January 21, 2021
On Thursday, Press Secretary Jen Psaki was asked about Biden not wearing a mask. "I think the power of his example is also the message he sends by signing 25 executive orders, including almost half of them related to COVID; the requirements that we’re all under every single day here to ensure we’re sending that message to the public," Psaki said. "Yesterday was a historic moment in our history. He was inaugurated as President of the United States. He was surrounded by his family. We take a number of precautions, but I don't think — I think we have big — bigger issues to worry about at this moment in time."