Rep. Louie Gohmert, a Republican from Texas who frequently refuses to wear masks or facial coverings to prevent the spread of COVID-19, tested positive for the disease on Wednesday.
Gohmert was screened for COVID-19 prior to his planned boarding of Air Force One to join President Donald Trump as he travelled to the lawmaker’s home state for a fundraiser and visit to an oil rig to tout his administration’s energy policy. After testing positive for coronavirus, Gohmert had to withdraw.
Gohmert was seen on Tuesday not wearing his mask and in close proximity to other lawmakers during a House Judiciary Committee hearing involving Attorney General William Barr. Gohmert was also seen speaking to Barr directly during recess, with neither individual wearing a mask during their encounter.
Returning to the U.S. Capitol building on Wednesday in spite of the diagnosis he had just received, Gohmert was interviewed by a Texas news station about what had just happened. Refusing to take responsibility for being a mostly anti-mask legislator, Gohmert suggested that his decision to wear a mask more frequently was perhaps responsible for his contracting the disease.
“I can’t help but wonder if by keeping a mask on and keeping it in place, if I might have put some germs, some of the virus on the mask and breathed it in,” Gohmert said.
There’s no scientific evidence to suggest Gohmert’s claims are accurate, and indeed, unless he was sharing his mask with others, his insinuations suggest that he had already contracted the disease before he supposedly “reinfected” himself. Health experts are clear on the issue of wearing masks: they absolutely are effective in preventing the spread of coronavirus.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-California) responded first with sympathy for Gohmert, then with consternation for his actions, which likely put others at risk for contracting the disease.
“I’m so sorry for him… But I’m also sorry my members, who are concerned, because he has been showing up at meetings without a mask and making a thing of it,” she said.
“Hopefully now he will look after his health, and others’,” Pelosi added.
After news broke of Gohmert’s diagnosis, Jake Sherman from Politico emailed the congressman’s office for a comment. An aide who responded asked that when the story is published, it “include the fact that Louie requires full staff to be in the office, including three interns, so that ‘we could be an example to America on how to open up safely.'” The aide also implied that individuals visiting the office while wearing masks were regularly belittled for doing so.
It was evident that following Gohmert’s positive test result, the potential spread of coronavirus was on the minds of members of Congress on Wednesday. During a House Judiciary Committee hearing following the diagnosis, another Republican congressman, Jim Jordan of Ohio, objected to Rep. David Cicilline (D-Rhode Island) about his inability to get a unanimous consent request passed in order to speak longer about an issue.
Jordan, who also rarely wears a mask, was rebuked by Cicilline.
“Mr. Jordan, you made a unanimous consent request, objection was heard, those are our rules…. Put your mask on!” Cicilline said.