Denver Mayor Michael Hancock tweeted a plea when he was just minutes from boarding a plane at his city’s airport.
“Pass the potatoes, not COVID… Stay home as much as you can, especially if you're sick… Host virtual gatherings instead of in-person dinners. Avoid travel, if you can.”
Hancock then flew off to Houston, with a connecting flight to Meridian, Mississippi. His wife, Mary Louise Lee, was already there and they would be joining their 22-year-old daughter, Janae Hancock, for Thanksgiving.
The daughter had recently taken a job as a TV news reporter with a Meridian station. Her father was now dragging her into the latest story of pandemic hypocrisy as demonstrated by a series of liberal politicians, from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to California Gov. Gavin Newsom to Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser. Other politicians, such as South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, are not hypocrites simply because they are not doing the right thing in the first place.
Apart from the outrageous timing, Hancock’s hypocrisy becomes particularly egregious when you consider a Nov. 20 letter his office received from a Colorado county public health official warning that Denver International Airport (DIA) constitutes a serious COVID-19 hazard.
Dr. Kurt Papenfus, who is also an emergency medicine physician, believes he became infected as a result of being repeatedly forced into close contact with others while passing through DIA. He noted in letters to Hancock and Colorado Gov. Jared Polis that he has had years of training and experience with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
“I recognize a safety hazard when I see it,” he wrote, “As it stands, DIA is an extremely dangerous place.”
He added, “This is an extremely dangerous problem that needs to be addressed immediately. This has national implications because DIA is a major flight hub.”
This warning was preceded by the Nov. 16 death by COVID-19 of TSA Agent Eduard Faktorovich, who worked at DIA.
Despite the warning, Hancock headed for the airport on Thursday and passed through the Thanksgiving crowds, tweeting a warning about COVID-19. He told his constituents to stay home and then boarded a plane, undermining critical warnings while placing others at risk, by example and directly in person. He also stood a chance of passing along COVID with the potatoes to his wife and daughter.
“I’ve never been really fond of hypocrites,” Papenfus told The Daily Beast on Wednesday evening as he continued to recover from his bout with the virus. “It’s hard not to be a hypocrite, that’s for sure. But if you’re going to be a hypocrite, don’t put people’s lives at risk.”
Papenfus said that upon hearing of Hancock’s airport tweet, “I thought, ‘OK, I hope coronavirus doesn't catch him not paying attention’ because it has a way of catching up with you and feeding you humble pie and then it feeds you more humble pie and then it feeds you more humble pie and when you say, ‘I can’t take any more!’ it will force-feed you more humble pie.”
He added, “I know, because it happened to me.”
Back on Nov. 6, Hancock sounded exactly like the mayor a city needs in a pandemic.
“We need everyone working together to reverse this trend,” he said, then repeating it. He announced that he would not be holding his usual Thanksgiving gathering of 60 at his house.
“We’re not going to sit here and tell you that Thanksgiving is canceled in Denver,” Hancock said. “We decided that it’s safer for everyone to stay in their own home.”
He pleaded with everybody to do the same in a Nov. 20 tweet.
“I’m asking, I’m urging and I’m pleading with everyone to stay home. Please, only go out for essential needs. If this virus continues to spread like it is right now, it won’t just mean another stay-at-home order—it will mean more easily preventable loss of life.”
His tweet late Wednesday morning would have been in keeping with this had he not been at DIA about to fly off to Mississippi.
Earlier this month, Mayor Bowser flouted Washington, D.C.’s provision barring non-essential travel by attending President-elect Joe Biden’s victory party in Delaware. She ignored her city’s requirement for people arriving from Delaware to quarantine for 14 days. She subsequently said that she and her entourage were excused from both provisions because they were on essential business.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi defied common sense by scheduling a dinner for newly elected and re-elected representatives in a windowless chamber in the Capitol. The resulting uproar prompted her to switch to takeout.
She had already created a stir at the end of August when she was videotaped at a San Francisco hair salon that should have been closed. She insisted afterwards that she had been “set up.”
And then there was California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who exhorted his constituents to stay home as much as possible and to avoid gatherings involving people in more than three households. He was photographed earlier this month at a birthday party attended by more than a dozen maskless high rollers at an ultra-expensive restaurant where meals can run $450 or more and the wine bill was said to be $12,000.
In New York City, where the virus has killed more than 25,000 people, mayoral candidate Eric Adams held a crowded, partly maskless fundraiser at a Manhattan restaurant. Gov. Andrew Cuomo was sharply critical.
“I think they should be setting the highest standards and they certainly shouldn't be breaking the law, right?” Cuomo said at a press conference.
At the approach of Thanksgiving, Cuomo praised his youngest daughter for saying she had decided not to travel home from Chicago to Albany. He proposed that people should spend the holiday only with people who live with them. He added that we should devote the day to giving thanks to the hospital workers and first responders and others who had risked so much and suffered so much in the pandemic.
Cuomo then revealed on a radio show that his two older daughters planned to bring his 89-year-old mother to spend Thanksgiving with him.
“My mom is going to come up and two of my girls,” the governor said. “The plans change. But that’s my plan.”
The plans did indeed quickly change when reporters asked how this jibed with his earlier remarks. A Cuomo aide then reported that the governor would be spending the holiday working.
But Cuomo’s gaffe pales in comparison to Hancock’s do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do disgrace.
After the holiday, Hancock will face the question of his political survival. He was already sullied when a detective formerly on his security detail produced text messages he sent her in 2012 that she said showed sexual harassment. “So I just watched this story on women taking pole dancing classes,” one read. “Have you ever taken one? Why do women take the course? If not have you ever considered taking one and why? Your thoughts?...Be careful, I'm curious. LOL!"
And then there was the 2018 incident in which an Aurora police officer pulled over Hancock’s then 22-year-old son, Jordan, for driving 65 in a 40 mph zone.. The cop’s body camera recorded the encounter.
“My dad’s the mayor,” the son said before spewing curses.
“Of Denver?” the cop asked. “Well, you’re in Aurora.”
“Guess what, I’m about to get you fired,” the son said.
The cop was not fired. Hancock apologized for his son’s behavior.
On Thanksgiving eve, he apologized to the whole city for his own actions.
“I recognize that my decision has disappointed many who believe it would have been better to spend Thanksgiving alone,” Hancock said in a statement. “As a public official, whose conduct is rightly scrutinized for the message it sends to others, I apologize to the residents of Denver who see my decision as conflicting with the guidance to stay at home for all but essential travel. I made my decision as a husband and father, and for those who are angry and disappointed, I humbly ask you to forgive decisions that are borne of my heart and not my head.”
He pledged to follow all necessary health and safety guidance and “quarantine” upon his return home..
Hancock could give all of Denver cause for thanks if he just resigned.