The gloves came off when the face mask was on.
The highest-ranking Republican in the New Mexico House of Representatives took a swipe at Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on social media Monday after she appeared on a national TV interview wearing a mask while talking about a $1 trillion infrastructure bill President Joe Biden signed into law later in the day.
“She might be trying to disguise herself. People know her as being incompetent,” House Minority Leader Jim Townsend, an Artesia Republican, tweeted.
Lujan Grisham traveled to Washington, D.C., on Sunday to attend Monday’s bill signing ceremony at the president’s invitation.
Face masks have been a recurring source of criticism against the governor by high-ranking members of the GOP, who contend mask mandates don’t work to slow the spread of COVID-19 and that Lujan Grisham is simply exerting control over New Mexicans.
But the governor and her administration have stood firm in what they say is a proven line of defense against the coronavirus, which continues to plague the state. Though New Mexico lifted its mask mandate for indoor public spaces in July, the state reinstated it when COVID-19 cases started to surge once again. Just last week, the governor extended the indoor mask mandate under a new public health order.
Late Monday, the Republican Party of New Mexico issued a news release calling her public health orders “illogical” as COVID-19 cases continue to spike.
“Her latest panic move is to follow other states and push for booster shots and to extend her own irrational indoor mask mandate that’s failed to do anything in this health crisis,” the news release states.
Delaney Corcoran, a spokeswoman for the Democratic Party of New Mexico, said Republicans have no valid reason to criticize the governor.
“Republicans can’t find a critique of Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s success securing countless good-paying jobs and billions of dollars for New Mexico through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act,” she wrote in an email. “So instead, they are pitifully lashing out from behind their computer screens. The New Mexico GOP has no plan to lead this state and it shows.”
Townsend, who has been critical of the governor in the past, did not return a message seeking comment.
His jab on Twitter came in response to a tweet from a spokesman for the Republican Governors Association, which has targeted Lujan Grisham in her reelection bid.
The spokesman, Will Reinert, posted a screenshot of the governor wearing a 3M face mask during an interview on MSNBC’s Morning Joe about the infrastructure bill.
“Wear a mask if you want, but [Lujan Grisham] wearing one during a live [Morning Joe] hit a new level of ridiculousness,” Reinert tweeted.
Response to Reinert’s tweet ranged from Townsend’s swipe to support for the governor.
“Great way to lead by example,” wrote a Twitter user with the handle @KoshkaRoo. “Every politician and public health officer should be wearing a mask during public appearances if that’s their state policy. Don’t want to be a hypocrite, right?”
Like New Mexico, the nation’s Capitol has an indoor mask mandate. Nora Meyers Sackett, the governor’s press secretary, wrote in an email Lujan Grisham wore a mask during the TV interview because she was indoors.
“New Mexico continues to have an indoor mask requirement in place,” Sackett wrote. “The governor takes her role seriously and prioritizes modeling the COVID-safe behavior that she asks her fellow New Mexicans to employ in order to stem the spread of COVID-19 and keep New Mexicans safe.”
Kendall Witmer, a spokeswoman for the governor’s campaign, wrote in an email Lujan Grisham “underscored her respect of New Mexico’s health care workers and families by wearing a mask while in D.C. to attend” the signing of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.