Dem Govs Flout Own COVID Restrictions to Attend Biden Inauguration

Michigan's Whitmer banned outdoor gatherings of more than 25 people before attending event

Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer (D.) / Twitter
January 21, 2021

Multiple Democratic governors defied their own COVID-19 gathering restrictions and travel recommendations to attend President Joe Biden's inauguration.

Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer tweeted a photo from the ceremony and later said she "left with the feeling of great hope and optimism and determination." The inauguration, however, violated Whitmer's most recent "gatherings and face mask order," which states that outdoor gatherings must be limited to 25 or fewer people. Around 2,000 people attended the inauguration, according to a Washington Post estimate. 

Michigan state senator Aric Nesbitt called Whitmer's hypocrisy "nothing new." The Democrat previously attended a Detroit Black Lives Matter protest in June just days after expressing a "high level of concern" that such gatherings could expedite the spread of the virus. 

"Governor Whitmer has sadly been more focused on public relations and partisan politics instead of collaborating and making smart decisions to better help the people of Michigan," Nesbitt told the Washington Free Beacon.

Pennsylvania governor Tom Wolf and New Jersey governor Phil Murphy also attended the Wednesday ceremony. Both governors have chastised residents for traveling outside of their homes. Wolf's administration urged Pennsylvanians to "avoid leaving their homes unless absolutely necessary" during the holiday season. The Democrat requires travelers entering the state to present a negative coronavirus test or quarantine for 10 days. A recent advisory released by the state of New Jersey, meanwhile, strongly discourages "all nonessential interstate travel at this time." Outdoor gatherings are also limited to 25 people under Murphy, though "political activities" are exempt from the rule. 

Whitmer and Murphy did not return requests for comment on their attendance at the inauguration, as well as if either plans to quarantine following the event. Wolf's office told the Free Beacon that the governor "is following the travel orders and guidelines in place and was tested within 72 hours prior to his planned return to the commonwealth."

Whitmer has faced criticism throughout the pandemic for stay-at-home orders that shuttered "nonessential" local businesses while keeping large retailers—and marijuana dispensaries—open. The Democrat defended her presence at the inauguration by claiming that she did not violate her own restrictions.

"Anyone who watched would have seen that we were spaced out, we were outside, and we were masked up," Whitmer said Wednesday evening. "I have been following the same directives I've asked everyone else to. I can't stand those people that have one rule for others and a different one for themselves."

But Whitmer's public health guidelines state that outdoor public gatherings may never consist of "more than 25 people," even with masks and social distancing required at such events. Indoor dining is also still banned in Michigan. Whitmer recently issued thousands of dollars in fines to restaurants and bars in violation of the order.

Whitmer, Murphy, and Wolf are not the only Democratic governors who have sidestepped their own coronavirus rules in recent months. California governor Gavin Newsom appeared to dine indoors with a sizable group at a posh Napa Valley restaurant in November. State guidelines at the time prohibited gatherings of more than three households and required six feet of distance between seats—Newsom's group was not socially distant.