There Are Lots of Reasons to Be Outraged Other Than Susan Collins’ Lack of a Face Mask

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Today, like any good politics blogger, I tuned in to watch the first major hearing by the Senate on the government response to the coronavirus pandemic. And, like any good politics blogger, I had Twitter open in a separate tab. Much to my surprise, instead of Dr. Anthony Fauci—the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases—or Centers for Disease Control head Dr. Robert Redfield, who was trending but Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine). I clicked on her name. Surely, I thought, her absurd defense of the dental lobby was going viral.

 

But no! Instead, I found post after viral post criticizing her for not wearing a mask.

For all the reasons to criticize Collins—her decisive vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh’s appointment to the Supreme Court, for example, or her reluctance to convict President Donald Trump in his Senate impeachment trial—this one actually seems to be unfair. Here’s why.

At the beginning of the hearing, the chair of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), announced that senators were allowed to remove their masks when speaking because they were all six feet apart. From the footage I have been poring over to get to the bottom of this pressing issue, I can see that Senator Collins, also known as the villain, entered the hearing room wearing a mask. She said hello to Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Richard Burr (R-N.C.), sat down at her isolated seat, and, after a few minutes, slipped off her mask. During that time, the Twitter outrage began.

Later in the hearing, her mask was back on, where it remained for the rest of the hearing, except when she was speaking. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends wearing masks “in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain”—not in Senate hearings where all who are attending are amply spread apart. There isn’t even a scientific consensus on how effective face coverings are in preventing the spread of the coronavirus, but we don’t need to get into that here. (President Trump, it turns out, wouldn’t be caught dead in a mask.) So, please, can we stop with the mask shaming and figure out why Collins wants to risk lives to appease Maine’s dentists? 

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Minority rule, corruption, disinformation, attacks on those who dare tell the truth: There is a direct line from what's happening in Russia and Ukraine to what's happening here at home. And that's what MoJo's Monika Bauerlein writes about in "Their Fight Is Our Fight" to unpack the information war we find ourselves in and share a few examples to show why the power of independent, reader-supported journalism is such a threat to authoritarians.

Corrupt leaders the world over can (and will) try to shut down the truth, but when the truth has millions of people on its side, you can't keep it down for good. And there's no more powerful or urgent argument for your support of Mother Jones' journalism right now than that. We need to raise about $450,000 to hit our online fundraising budget in these next few months, so please read more from Monika and pitch in if you can.

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