In media news today, a Utah newspaper calls for the National Guard to prevent the unvaccinated from going anywhere, lawmakers call on NBC to cover human rights protests during the Winter Olympics in China, and CNN frets about Biden’s press treatment.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki lit into Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, R., as he fulfilled a campaign promise to allow parents to opt out of school mask mandates.
The newly sworn-in governor quickly met defiance of his executive order from some of Virginia’s bluer areas, including Psaki’s home of Arlington County, as well as Fairfax, Alexandria, and Richmond. Arlington County said in a Saturday statement that its public schools will “continue to require all staff and students to wear masks inside on school grounds and on buses, as part of our layered approach to safety.”
That won the applause of President Biden’s chief spokesperson, who said in August that her kindergartner could wear a mask “all day” after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended everyone, regardless of vaccination status, wear masks indoors.
Press secretary Jen Psaki speaks during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, Dec. 20, 2021. (Reuters/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo)
“Hi there,” Psaki tweeted from her personal account . “Arlington [County] parent here (don’t believe you are @GlennYoungkin but correct me if I am wrong). Thank you to @APSVirginia for standing up for our kids, teachers and administrators and their safety in the midst of a transmissible variant.”
The order from Youngkin, whose victory was powered in part by parents fed up with coronavirus mandates and lockdowns, does not prevent students from wearing masks in schools, as some progressives have argued at times. Rather, it allows them to opt out if they choose: “The parents of any child enrolled in a elementary or secondary school or a school based early childcare and educational program may elect for their children not to be subject to any mask mandate in effect at the child’s school or educational program.”
Psaki was sharply criticized by conservatives for speaking out, with some telling Psaki she was free to continue to mask her children and also should heed the will of Virginia voters.
Glenn Youngkin gives his inaugural address after being sworn in as the 74th governor of Virginia on the steps of the state Capitol on Jan. 15, 2022, in Richmond. ( Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)
“I have read the order and Jen is welcome to do for her child as she pleases,” CNN’s Mary Katharine Ham tweeted. “Given that the effective masks are fitted N95s, she definitely doesn’t need to worry about my kids if her kid has the good gear.”
“Jen, if for some reason you want to mask your children, you are still free to do so. This isn’t a ban on masks, this is a ban on *forced masking* of children against other parents’ wishes,” Fox News contributor Mollie Hemingway wrote.
Fellow Fox News contributor Guy Benson tweeted, “Youngkin is Governor. He beat your candidate. Data shows forced masking of kids doesn’t make schools safer, but there are established downsides for students to wearing them. If you want your kid to wear one forever, that’s your prerogative. Other parents disagree.”
Arlington County announced its mandate would continue shortly after Youngkin’s order went out.
“The fact that that tweet came out from Arlington County within minutes of my Executive Order, what that tells me, is they haven’t listened to parents yet,” Youngkin told reporters Sunday. The order goes into effect on Jan. 24.
Psaki was hit with an ethics complaint in October when she appeared to advocate for Democrat Terry McAuliffe in the Virginia governor’s race, saying, “We’re going to do everything we can to help former Governor McAuliffe, and we believe in the agenda he’s representing.” An ethics watchdog said Psaki’s comments appeared to have violated the Hatch Act, which forbids officials from using their “official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with or affecting the result of an election.”
Democrat Terry McAuliffe, speaking at an election night party on Nov. 2, 2021, lost the Virgina race for governor to Republican Glenn Youngkin, who was sworn in on Saturday. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
Biden and other national Democrats campaigned hard for McAuliffe, who was seeking a second term after previously serving as Virginia governor from 2013 to 2017. Youngkin’s two-point victory over McAuliffe, in a state that Biden won comfortably in 2020, was seen as a stinging rebuke of Democrats and a sign of parent anger over coronavirus mandates and lockdowns.
Fox News’ Kim Anderson and Jon Brown contributed to this report.