Murphy is branded a hypocrite by Republicans for not wearing mask at 2 indoor events

Murphy is branded a hypocrite by Republicans for not wearing mask at 2 indoor events ...

Gov. Phil Murphy has long been a proponent of mask-wearing to combat the COVID-19 epidemic. New Jersey was one of the first states to adopt a mask requirement and one the last states in the nation to repeal it. Murphy said all New Jerseyers should now wear face coverings in indoor settings of high risk, even if he did not reinstate a statewide requirement when federal officials tightened guidelines this summer.

Republican governor Murphy is being branded a hypocrite because he was recently photographed not wearing hats at two large indoor gatherings. With less than three weeks before voters decide whether to re-elect Murphy on Nov. 2, Republicans are calling the Democratic governor sexist because of his mask.

Though New Jersey no longer has a sweeping statewide requirement, GOP leaders argue Murphy ignored CDC and state recommendations, and that its particularly troubling because students in school and children over 2 in day care are still required to wear face coverings in the Garden State.

According to state Sen. Holly Schepisi, R-Bergen, "The people of New Jersey are being told by this administration that they must comply, don't ask questions, or become a knucklehead or worse, while those demanding compliance flout the policies they push." It is the height of hypocrisy, and it is wrong.

Murphy has dismissed the uproar as ridiculous and suggested that the situation is more nuanced than Republicans are portraying. Others claim the issue is ironic because numerous Republican leaders in New Jersey have opposed to masking rules in the first place, despite recommendations from health officials.

This comes as the GOP attempts to gain ground against Murphy, who has led Republican challenger Jack Ciattarelli in all public opinion polls though his lead has fallen in recent months. Numerous polls have shown the epidemic to be a major issue in the race, with 80% of New Jerseyans supporting Murphy's response to the crisis.

In their televised debate Tuesday night, Ciattarelli criticized Murphy in the wake of published reports that the governor and others were maskless at an indoor ball hosted by Garden State Equality, a gay advocacy group, in Asbury Park last Friday.

None of those who attended were breaking state regulations, according to the organizers. In late May, Murphys administration ended its mask mandate for the majority of public spaces. People who entered the gala had to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test to enter.

According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Monmouth County currently has high rates of coronavirus transmission, and masking is recommended in indoor settings regardless of vaccination status. Murphys administration is also proposing, but not requiring, masking in densely populated, isolated, and unvaccinated areas of New Jersey.

I do think our leadership should be consistent in times like these," Ciattarelli said during the debate.

Murphy stated that he did not wear a mask because il was on stage. He said he often doesnt wear a dress when speaking at public gatherings.

Are you wearing a mask right now? Murphy told Ciattarelli, "Were on stage."

He stated, He was at a large indoor gathering. Nobody had a mask on.

Murphy replied, Nice try.

Murphy has been steadfast in his fight against the COVID-19 virus, according to Christian Fuscarino, the executive director of Garden State Equality, and alt-right news outlets that wrote about him not wearing a mask are making poor attempts to tarnish that record.

Everyone who attended the Equality Ball was vaccinated and a portion of the event took place outside, Fuscarino said.

Jay Lassiter, a longtime New Jersey gay activist who spoke at the gala, said the Republican criticism is motivated by being desperate because Ciattarelli leads in the polls.

I just wish their desperation didnt have life and death consequences for the rest of us as we continue to navigate this epidemic, Lassiter said. I take solace knowing that every minute theyre out there whining about gay people being responsible, its time they werent on the internet trying to convince their supporters to take sheep medication.

In its statements on the issue, the state Republican Party did not include Garden State Equality by name.

Ciattarelli, a former member of the state Assembly, was not wearing smocks during he campaign stop in March, when they were still required. He has also been seen at numerous recent indoor events without a mask.

Ciattarelli has stated that he favors masking and vaccination, but that his position is also against mandating them.

I believe that my job as governor when elected is to provide people with all the information they need to make an informed decision. And then the choice is theirs, Ciattarelli said during Tuesdays debate.

Murphy whose campaign has repeatedly portrayed Ciattarellis coronavirus views as being dangerous and extreme - said during the debate that masking and vaccinations are still necessary to combat the epidemic, which has killed more than 27,000 New Jersey residents.

For people to ignore that (and) disregard that playbook is putting lives needlessly at risk, said the governor.

Murphy "lied" about the debate because another photo showed him backstage posing for a photo without hat, according to the New Jersey Republican Party. A day after the event, Murphy claimed that he "llied about his participation in the Asbury Park debate.

Murphy, who was asked about that charge during his coronavirus briefing Wednesday, said Republicans are desperate.

We dont think you need to wear a mask outside, but if youre inside and you're uncertain about the vaccination status of the people inside, and unless you are packed in particularly, you should be wearing t-shirts, the governor said.

Murphy noted the vaccine and testing requirements of the Asbury Park event and said the picture he took was taken with a close friend who is as well-vaccinated as any American.

And so am I, the governor stated. Come on, man. Lets focus on the stuff that matters, not the political stuff.

Murphy is using a double standard by suggesting that guests' vaccination status prevented the use of masks, since children and staff in school and daycare are still required to wear face coverings regardless of vaccination history, according to the state Republican Party.

Or is this only applicable to New Jerseys elite? Alex Wilkes, the republican's spokesperson, said in a statement.

Because children under the age of 12 in the United States are still not eligible for the vaccine, health officials and experts have stated that masking in schools and daycares is necessary.

Then, on Thursday, Republicans criticized new reports that showed Murphy not wearing a mask while on stage and seated in the crowd among other maskless attendees at the Monmouth County Chairmans Ball in Spring Lake.

Murphys campaign did not respond to a message seeking comment on this event.

Ciattarellis campaign attempted to fundraise off the issue on Friday morning, telling supporters, this is a perfect example of rules for thee but not for me.

Matt Hale, a political science professor at Seton Hall University and reelection candidate for Highland Park, said Ciattarelli and Republicans are baffling by their use of this tactic.

Overall, people believe Murphy did a great job and is doing remarkably well at managing COVID, Hale said. They may not agree with everything he says, but they see him as being dependent on science. I dont think (this tactic) has much weight. Arent you the guys who want to eliminate mask mandates?

NOTE FROM THE EDITOR: This story has been updated with comments from gay activists.

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Brent Johnson can be reached at bjohnson@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @johnsb01. Follow his Twitter handle at #john.sc01.

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