Gov. John Bel Edwards explains maskless photo

Updated: Dec. 2, 2020 at 4:03 PM CST
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Governor John Bel Edwards is facing criticism on social media after a photo of him not wearing a mask in public was circulated online.

During his regularly scheduled coronavirus (COVID-19) news conference Wednesday, the governor said he did nothing wrong and was following all COVID-19 guidelines.

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The governor has routinely urged people to wear a mask to fight the spread of COVID-19.

A spokeswoman for the governor’s office says the photo was taken in the second week of November at the Baton Rouge Country Club. The spokeswoman says Edwards wore a mask while golfing that day and then removed it after sitting down outdoors to eat. She says someone at another table spoke to the governor and the governor “briefly” stood up to speak to that person, while forgetting to put his mask back on.

“There was absolutely nothing I did that day that violated the rules that were in place,” the governor said when asked about the photo during the news conference Wednesday.

“Had that photo been taken ten seconds later, you would have seen me with a mask on,” the governor said. “I don’t think we ask anyone to eat at a table with a mask on.”

“He is not in violation of his own orders,” said Deputy Communications Director Shauna Sanford. “He had his mask on the entire time that day, except for when he was eating. Someone said something to him and he responded in a very brief moment. He was not doing anything that goes against his Phase 3 order.”

“You need to practice what you preach,” said one person who posted the photo on Facebook. The same photo was also shared in multiple other places, with many people criticizing the governor for his actions.

The governor’s Phase 3 order, which was in effect at the time the photo was taken, calls for everyone to wear a mask when social distancing of six feet or more is not possible.

Several people have taken issue with the Governor’s mask mandate.

Back in August of 2020, the governor slapped one of them with a temporary restraining order.

The owner of FireHouse BBQ openly defied the mandate. In that case, customers were allowed to go inside without a mask.

Jeff Wittenbrink is the owner’s attorney.

“I think Danielle (Bunch) was targeted mostly because she spoke out. She said she wasn’t going to do it (require masks), she wasn’t going to require her customers to do it. And guess what, they were making personal choices just like the governor and his friends at the country club,” said Wittenbrink.

WAFB went around asking people what their opinion was on the viral photo.

“He (Governor) tells us to wear a mask, but he must understand that when he goes out in public, he has to put a mask on too,” said Carrie Louring.

“I think everyone would’ve preferred for him to have his mask on,” said one woman who did not want her name out there.

“I don’t think he meant it, and I’m pretty sure he practices keeping his distance. But sometimes those things do happen. Sometimes it’s just reaction and I’m pretty sure it was just a little glitch you know,” said Jude Pitts.

A spokesperson with the governor did point out how some legislators have repeatedly refused to wear a mask in the State Capital during the session.

But again, it isn’t their mask mandate.

The governor still is urging everyone to wear a mask out in public, to stop the spread of COVID-19.

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