Gov. Ralph Northam (D., Va.) covered his face with a dark mask on Monday in an attempt to educate the public on measures aimed at preventing the spread of the coronavirus.
"I would advise everyone to wear a face-covering when they are out," Northam said at a press conference in Richmond.
Northam, who is best known for refusing to resign after revelations that he appeared in blackface in a photo in his medical school yearbook, evidently did not consider the optics of using a dark mask in his demonstration. The racist image came to light in 2019, but because Northam is a Democrat, the media outrage died down and he kept his job.
Virginia law prohibits citizens from concealing their faces. It's a felony punishable by up to five years in prison. The law is the result of 1950s legislation targeting the white-hooded Ku Klux Klan, the racist organization also featured on Northam's medical school yearbook page. Northam assured citizens that the law would not be enforced against people wearing surgical masks in light of the global pandemic.
The social media team at the local NBC News affiliate in Washington, D.C., caused a stir on Monday by accurately describing Northam's actions in a Twitter post, which was eventually deleted after some people pointed out that it was funny.
I give you the worst (or best?) worded tweet of the year. pic.twitter.com/9zYi0Iahka
— Noam Blum (@neontaster) April 6, 2020
An attempt was made to clarify that the mask wasn't actually black, but that tweet was also deleted.
NBC Washington eventually settled on the following "correction" and apologized for the "misjudgment."
Correction: We made a misjudgment in a tweet about Gov. Northam’s face mask. We sincerely apologize for the error.
— NBCWashington (@nbcwashington) April 6, 2020