Stacey Abrams apologizes after her maskless photo in classroom goes viral

"Protecting our kids is the most important thing," said Abrams, "and anything that can be perceived as undermining that is a mistake."

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Democratic Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams issued an apology after a photo of herself without a face covering at a Decatur elementary school went viral. 

Abrams was at Glennwood Elementary reading a story for a recent Black History Month event when the photo was taken near the end of her visit. While she and her team confirmed that she wore a mask into the school and took it off during her speech, and also posed for a photo with a large group of children who were wearing masks. 

Democratic Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams issued an apology after a photo of herself without a face covering at a local elementary school went viral. (Photo: Zach Gibson/Getty Images)

Friday, the photos were shared on — and removed from — social media accounts, but not before Abrams’ Republican detractors seized on them, calling her hypocritical for taking her mask off at the school. 

“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,” Abrams said in an interview Tuesday night on CNN’s Erin Burnett OutFront. Abrams said she removed her mask because there were students who were also listening in remotely, and she “wanted all of them to hear me.”

“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,” she said, per CNN

“My responsibility in that moment,” Abrams added, “was to explain to those kids why I was doing something they weren’t doing and then as soon as possible to put that mask back on.”

On Twitter, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp wrote: “Stacey Abrams wants state government mask mandates for Georgians and their children. But it looks like they wouldn’t apply when she’s attending a photo op.”

As previously reported, former Senator David Perdue, who is challenging Kemp for the Republican nomination for Georgia governor, released a lengthy statement on the matter via his Twitter account, writing, in part, “Where is Stacey’s mask? We all know Stacey Abrams’ hypocrisy knows no bounds.”

In a statement responding to the criticism, the Abrams camp called it “shameful that her opponents are using a Black History Month reading event for Georgia children as the impetus for a false political attack, and it is pitiful and predictable that our opponents continue to look for opportunities to distract from their failed records when it comes to protecting public health during the pandemic.”

When asked if she believed that mask mandates for schools should be lifted, Abrams disagreed due to the state’s low vaccination rates. Currently, just over 50% of its population is vaccinated against COVID-19, according to Our World in Data. 

“COVID hygiene is going to be a point of debate for a very long time, and we can only follow the science and follow our circumstances,” said Abrams, assuring that if elected governor, she would “look at the science, to follow the protocols and to set the right example.”

“And right now,” she continued, “that example is that we wear masks whenever possible. But we recognize we can’t be a hard line about this because situations change, and we have moments where we have to make decisions.” 

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