Though his brief remarks on the House floor focused on a bill to honor an elite World War II unit known as the Ghost Army, Rep. Chris Stewart sent a louder message Tuesday without saying anything.
The Utah Republican donned a face mask reading “OPEN SCHOOLS NOW” during his one-minute speech. Underneath in smaller letters it read, “Follow the science, not the unions!”
Though face masks might be on the way out in the near future, they’re readily used for political and fashion statements alike among politicians.
A parade of Republicans, many wearing the same open schools mask, urged the House to call up the Reopen Schools Act, all making the identical plea to “get our kids out from behind screens and back in the classroom.”
Rep. Burgess Owens, R-Utah, intended to pick up an “Open Schools Now” mask on his way to the chamber, but joined the procession of Republicans on the floor wearing a face covering that read, “Utah First.”
“That was bad theater,” Rep. Jim McGovern, R-Mass., said after the unsuccessful GOP stunt.
Stewart has criticized the Biden administration as not having a plan to reopen the country’s public schools that have been closed during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. He also objected to the billions of dollars the American Rescue Plan allocates for schools that aren’t open.
Most of Utah’s schools are open.
“Parents across the country are struggling to cope with their children being forced to endure virtual learning. Our kids are paying the price. The science is clear that schools should be reopened. It’s time to put students first and get them back in the classroom,” Stewart said in response to question to his office about what prompted the mask.
Tuesday marked the first time Stewart has strapped a political message over his mouth. But some lawmakers do it with regularity.
Perhaps the queen of message masks is conservative firebrand Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga. The unabashed promoter of right-wing conspiracy theories has worn an array of face coverings, including ones reading “Trump Won,” “Stop the Steal,” “Censored,” “Free Speech” and “End Abortion.”
On Tuesday, her blue mask read, “Reopen America.”
Though Republicans appear more prone to wear message masks, Democrats, too, make statements with face coverings.
McGovern had the words “End Hunger Now!” emblazoned on his mask Tuesday as he argued for President Joe Biden’s coronavirus relief package.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., made more of a fashion statement than a political statement Tuesday with her floral patterned mask matching perfectly with her magenta blazer.
In November, newly elected Democratic Missouri Rep. Cori Bush wore a mask with Breonna Taylor’s name on it during orientation for new members at the Capitol. Some Republican colleagues apparently called her Breonna throughout the day, assuming that was her name.
“It hurts,” Missouri’s first Black congresswoman tweeted back then. “But I’m glad they’ll come to know her name & story because of my presence here.”
Taylor was shot by white officers who burst into her Louisville, Kentucky, home using a no-knock warrant during a narcotics investigation last year.
Utah GOP Sens. Mike Lee and Mitt Romney typically wear nondescript surgical or black masks, though Romney recently donned one with the small outline of the head of a dog or wolf wearing sunglasses. Romney’s office didn’t know what the logo represents.
Lee and Romney, though, are the subject of masks available for sale.
A website called teepublic.com offers a “Mike Lee political parody presidential election poster parody for fans of satire” mask with the senator’s likeness for $15.
The site also has a variety of “Mitt Romney 2020” masks, though he wasn’t running for any office last year. There’s also one with the word “Mitt-o-crite” under Romney’s image. The description calls it a “mitt piece of (expletive)” mask.
On Wednesday, a spokeswoman for TeePublic said the company has now removed the “inappropriate” Romney masks from its website.
The Conde Nast online store also offers a mask referencing Romney in a New Yorker magazine cartoon.
The cartoon depicts a man showing former President Donald Trump, a snake, an airplane and a clown with knife and saying, “Now that nothing you do is illegal, which of these would you like to send to Mitt Romney’s house?”