Denver Mayor Michael Hancock (D) apologized Wednesday following backlash for his holiday travel to Mississippi after he advised his residents to stay put due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hancock released a statement saying he acknowledges he instructed people to “stay home and avoid unnecessary travel.” He said he publicly announced how his family canceled its usual “multi-household Thanksgiving” but should have shared that his wife and daughter have been in Mississippi after his daughter took a new job.
“As the holiday approached, I decided it would be safer for me to travel to see them than to have two family members travel back to Denver,” he said in the statement.
“I recognize that my decision has disappointed many who believe it would have been better to spend Thanksgiving alone,” he added. “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 concluded.
The mayor received criticism after it was reported that he flew to Mississippi hours after tweeting out recommendations for people to “avoid travel, if you can” this year for Thanksgiving as coronavirus cases and hospitalizations surge across the country.
Earlier Wednesday, Mike Strott, a spokesperson for Hancock, told The Denver Post in a statement that there was not a contradiction between the mayor’s instructions and his flight as his family changed its plans from its tradition of gathering up to 50 people.
“[Hancock] has told people to rethink their Thanksgiving plans. He has also said that if you do travel to follow health and safety guidelines and the mayor will still follow health and safety guidelines upon his return,” Strott told the newspaper.
Similar to leaders across the country, Hancock cautioned against large gatherings for the holidays throughout November saying “we’re not going to sit here and tell you that Thanksgiving is canceled in Denver,” but people should “think differently” about holiday gatherings.
He is not the only government official to be accused of hypocrisy after California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) faced condemnation for attending a 12-person party after urging people to avoid such gatherings. The governor later apologized for his attendance.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) altered his in-person Thanksgiving plans after he received backlash for saying his 89-year-old mother and two daughters were traveling to Albany to celebrate the holiday.