Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) on Wednesday suggested that he contracted coronavirus because he wore a mask more frequently in recent days.
“I can’t help but think that if I hadn’t been wearing a mask so much in the last 10 days or so, I really wonder if I would have gotten it,” he said in an interview with The American Independent.
In a later statement on Twitter, he explained that he often touches his face while wearing his mask to make it comfortable. “I can’t help but wonder if that put some germs in the mask,” he said.
The Texas lawmaker, who tested positive on Wednesday morning, had previously made a point of refusing to wear a mask while in the Capitol.
He said last month that he wouldn’t wear one around the Capitol because he was regularly tested for the virus. Gohmert was set to travel with President Donald Trump to Texas Wednesday, but his positive result was caught in the pre-screening process.
“[I]f I get it,” he told CNN in June, “you’ll never see me without a mask.”
Following his positive test result, Gohmert didn’t immediately isolate and self-quarantine, as health experts advise. He reportedly returned to his office, saying he wanted to inform his staffers of the test result in person rather than having them learn from news reports. Several staffers were already in the process of leaving by the time he arrived.
He has also required his full staff, including three interns, to be in the office to set an “example to America on how to open up safely,” according to an aide who suggested to Politico that he’d berated staffers for wearing masks.
“I don’t have any of the symptoms that are listed as part of COVID-19, but apparently I have the Wuhan virus,” he said in his Twitter statement on Wednesday.
Gohmert, who was in attendance at Tuesday’s House Judiciary Committee hearing with Attorney General William Barr, is the seventh representative to contract the virus. He was spotted without a mask on Tuesday speaking with Barr within an arm’s length prior to the hearing. Barr will be tested on Wednesday for coronavirus following Gohmert’s positive result.
Gohmert insisted that he did wear a mask at Tuesday’s Judiciary hearing.
“I’ve worn a mask more in the last week or two than I have in the whole last four months, and I was wearing my mask at the Judiciary hearing,” Gohmert said.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said she was “so sorry” for Gohmert but was also sorry for House members “who are concerned, because he has been showing up at meetings without a mask and making a thing of it.”
“Too many Republicans have continued to act extraordinarily irresponsibly, including Louie Gohmert,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) told reporters on a call on Wednesday, referencing reports that Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) went to the gym after he tested positive in March.
Gohmert had previously struck a defiant tone on the topic of masks. At a meeting at the White House in May, he pointed his attack at members of the media.
“We had tests and nobody in here has the coronavirus unless it’s somebody in the media,” Gohmert said at the meeting. “So the only reason we would wear masks is if we were trying to protect ourselves from you, in the media. And we’re not scared of you.”
He is one of a cluster of Republican members of Congress who have refused to wear masks, despite party leaders including Sens. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) wearing them around the Capitol. Several Republican representatives were chastised during the Barr hearing Tuesday for not wearing masks in the hearing room.
Lawmakers who have previously tested positive for the virus include Reps. Mario Diaz Balart (R-FL), Neal Dunn (R-FL), Morgan Griffith (R-VA), Mike Kelly (R-PA), Ben McAdams (D-UT), Tom Rice (R-SC), and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY).