For almost six months, hairdressers in San Francisco have been prohibited from cutting and styling their clients’ hair inside a salon. But on Monday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), one of the most outspoken Democratic lawmakers on following coronavirus restrictions, became an exception to the rule in her home district.
Surveillance footage aired on Fox News on Tuesday showed Pelosi walking through a salon with a mask around her neck as a stylist wearing a mask followed behind. Republican critics pounced on Pelosi, accusing her of hypocrisy.
“Speaker Pelosi has pushed policies that would keep our economy closed and our small businesses shut down. But for herself?” Senate Republicans tweeted. “A salon visit whenever she pleases.”
But a spokesman for Pelosi insisted she was following the rules outlined by the salon before her visit.
“The speaker always wears a mask and complies with local covid requirements,” spokesman Drew Hammill said in a statement to The Washington Post, adding Pelosi briefly took down her mask while getting her hair washed. “This business offered for the speaker to come in on Monday and told her they were allowed by the city to have one customer at a time in the business. The speaker complied with the rules as presented by this establishment.”
At a Wednesday news conference, Pelosi told reporters she made a mistake by trusting an establishment that she has patronized “over the years, many times." She said the salon “owes me an apology” and implied there was a nefarious motive behind what she thought was an innocent hair appointment.
“As it turns out, it was a set up,” Pelosi said. “So I take responsibility for falling for a set up and that’s all I’m going to say about that.”
With coronavirus cases in California on the decline — cases fell almost 14 percent over the past week as of early Wednesday, according to The Post’s covid-19 tracker — some counties in the Bay Area have begun to loosen restrictions and reopen stores and salons at partial capacity. But not hair salons in San Francisco, which, like most personal care businesses, have been hurting during the pandemic.
San Francisco Mayor London Breed (D) announced last week that salons could reopen for outdoor service only starting Tuesday.
Erica Kious, the owner of eSalon SF, where Pelosi got her haircut, slammed the Democrat for her indoor styling. Kious said she rents chairs in her salon to independent stylists, and one of them texted on Sunday that Pelosi would be at her salon the following day.
“It was a slap in the face that she went in, you know, that she feels that she can just go and get her stuff done while no one else can go in, and I can’t work,” Kious told Fox News. “We have been shut down for so long, not just me, but most of the small businesses and I just can’t — it’s a feeling — a feeling of being deflated, helpless and honestly beaten down.”
Pelosi’s visit to the salon comes days after she wrote to Senate Democrats saying Republicans are to blame for a slowdown in reopening because they don’t “listen to the scientists.” She added Republicans “are rejecting the funding needed for testing and tracing to crush the virus and safely reopen schools and the economy.”
Her salon visit attracted harsh criticism from conservative critics, such as commentator Ben Shapiro, who tweeted Pelosi has a “Marie Antoinette thing going here.”
On Fox News, Tucker Carlson called her a hypocrite for “sneaking into a hair salon others are banned from entering."
“She can do that because she is the speaker of the House, third in line to the presidency,” Carlson said. “You cannot because you don’t have as much power as Nancy Pelosi.”
Pelosi isn’t the only politician taking heat for their personal conduct during a pandemic that continues to alter everyday life and upend local businesses. On Monday, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney (D) apologized after an image of him dining indoors at a restaurant in Maryland circulated online. Kenney said he felt dining there was a low risk because cases in the county where he dined were below 800, as opposed to the “33,000 cases in Philadelphia,” he wrote on Twitter.
“Restaurant owners are among the hardest hit by the pandemic. I’m sorry if my decision hurt those who’ve worked to keep their businesses going under difficult circumstances,” he said. “Looking forward to reopening indoor dining soon and visiting my favorite spots.”
Restaurant owners in Philadelphia excoriated the mayor, who appeared to be sitting in a crowded restaurant without a six-foot distance from other diners. Like in other cities across the country, restaurants in Philadelphia have suffered from the pandemic restrictions. According to Philadelphia magazine, at least 17 restaurants closed due to the pandemic.
Indoor dining at 25 percent occupancy will resume in Philadelphia on Tuesday.
Paulina Firozi and Reis Thebault contributed to this report.
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