Most politicians have a tough time apologizing when they’ve done wrong — without tossing in a qualifier, or non-apology apology along the lines of, “I’m sorry you took my comment the wrong way.” So we’ve got to give credit to North Carolina’s Sen. Thom Tillis, who straight-up ’fessed up to doing the wrong thing: going maskless in a crowd.
Tillis was among the illuminati at President Trump’s free-wheeling acceptance speech for the Republican presidential nomination during the GOP convention last Thursday. And though Tillis started off with his mug wisely covered, at some point during the evening he was photographed without a mask, among others who were also doing without, despite close quarters. That’s a recipe for spreading disease.
On Friday, Tillis released a statement through his campaign, saying, “I’ve stressed the importance of mask wearing throughout this pandemic and have tried to lead by example on this issue, but last night I fell short of my own standard." He wrote that he was accepting responsibility for his own actions.
Democrats were quick to jump. “When it comes time to choose between his political career and his principles, Tillis chose what’s best for himself,” state Democratic Party spokesperson Robert Howard said in a news release. "Sen. Tillis criticizing others while not following his own words is a perfect encapsulation of why North Carolinians don’t trust Tillis, and why he’ll be out of office this fall.”
But as far as we can tell, except for this slip, his message has been consistent and consistently practiced. Unlike some of his colleagues, he’s accepted the best medical guidance from trustworthy scientific sources.
“I started wearing a mask the day the (White House) COVID task force said start wearing masks. I’ve worn one ever since,” he told restaurant leaders at a small in-person campaign event just over a week ago in Raleigh.
“It's also important to maintain distance," he said during a conference call with constituents Thursday afternoon discussing state coronavirus guidelines. That means, he added, to “certainly not even linger for long periods of time around anyone, particularly people not wearing a mask.”
He’s even said, “Folks who are not wearing masks are really COVID’s best friends.”
It’s important for North Carolinians to hear rational messages like this from conservative leaders. It reduces the wacky perception of mask-wearing as some kind of partisan power-play rather than a public safety issue.
In honor of his admission, along with his service to the state — he was the primary driving force behind compensation for victims of forced sterilization between the 1930s and 1970s — and his efforts to promote bipartisan legislation, we’ll give Tillis a mulligan.
And we hope his lapse didn't make him or anyone else ill.
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster also attended the ceremony sans mask, despite earlier promoting safety measures. As we write, he’s not explained or apologized.
So thanks, also, Tillis, for not making us look like South Carolina.
So what made Tillis take off his mask? He didn’t say. Maybe it was peer pressure. Maybe it was a desire to please the president, who can be very persuasive. Maybe it was the excitement of the moment. We’re just glad that he’s taking coronavirus seriously, in contrast to the Trump administration, which seems insistent on acting like the crisis is over.
It’s not by any means. The number of new cases is in decline, but not quickly enough. U.S. coronavirus cases are approaching 6 million, which is about 5,999,985 more than Trump said we should expect. U.S. coronavirus deaths are approaching 184,000.
On top of that, we’re a long way from economic recovery. Last Friday, following Trump’s nomination, American Airlines announced that it would lay off roughly 19,000 staffers when the industry’s federal-aid package expires Oct. 1. The same day, MGM Resorts announced it would lay off 18,000 workers — a quarter of its staff — who had been on furlough since March.
We hope Tillis will keep that factor in mind as he sits down with his colleagues to decide how to help working people. They’ll need more than masks.
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