We don’t know where Democratic Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington state contracted COVID-19. We can, however, confirm she has a bit of confirmation bias.
In an interview with Rebecca Traister of New York magazine published Friday, Rep. Jayapal, who heads the House Progressive Caucus, said she was convinced the room she was locked in during the Capitol riot last week “where there were over 100 people and many were Republicans not wearing masks — was a superspreader event.”
So convinced was she of the danger, she told Traister, that she was quarantining herself.
On Monday, Jayapal announced she’d tested positive for COVID-19 — and she blamed Republicans for infecting her.
“I just received a positive COVID-19 test result after being locked down in a secured room at the Capitol where several Republicans not only cruelly refused to wear a mask but recklessly mocked colleagues and staff who offered them one,” she wrote on Twitter.
“Only hours after Trump incited a deadly assault on our Capitol, many Republicans still refused to take the bare minimum COVID-19 precaution and simply wear a damn mask in a crowded room during a pandemic — creating a superspreader event ON TOP of a domestic terrorist attack.”
Only hours after Trump incited a deadly assault on our Capitol, many Republicans still refused to take the bare minimum COVID-19 precaution and simply wear a damn mask in a crowded room during a pandemic—creating a superspreader event ON TOP of a domestic terrorist attack.
— Rep. Pramila Jayapal (@RepJayapal) January 12, 2021
“Any Member who refuses to wear a mask should be fully held accountable for endangering our lives because of their selfish idiocy,” she continued. “I’m calling for every single Member who refuses to wear a mask in the Capitol to be fined and removed from the floor by the Sergeant at Arms.”
Any Member who refuses to wear a mask should be fully held accountable for endangering our lives because of their selfish idiocy. I’m calling for every single Member who refuses to wear a mask in the Capitol to be fined and removed from the floor by the Sergeant at Arms.
— Rep. Pramila Jayapal (@RepJayapal) January 12, 2021
Dianne Feinstein isn’t going to be happy about this.
Anyhow, one can separate sympathy for Jayapal from disapproval of the blatant politicization of her diagnosis. It’s worth noting that the Office of the Attending Physician did issue a letter to those who were locked down in the room that one individual in there might have been infected.
“On Wednesday January 6, many members of the House community were in protective isolation in room located in a large committee hearing space,” Brian Monahan wrote in a Sunday email to members of Congress, according to The Washington Post.
“The time in this room was several hours for some and briefer for others. During this time, individuals may have been exposed to another occupant with coronavirus infection.”
The congresswoman did not reveal which Republicans weren’t wearing masks in the room. And yet, her claim was accepted at face value by a media which wanted a story — and boy, did this ever provide one.
Jayapal’s interview with Traister was a softball one, but that’s to be expected when you consider what Jayapal had just been through. Less understandable were headlines like these:
“Rep. Pramila Jayapal tests positive for coronavirus after Capitol siege but says she ‘will not rest’” — The Seattle Times.
“Democrats Test Positive for COVID After Republicans ‘Cruelly Refused’ to Wear Masks While Sheltering” — Mother Jones.
“House Democrats to fine lawmakers who don’t wear masks on the floor after 3 Dems test positive and blame GOP colleagues” — CNN.
“Three Democrats Now Have COVID-19 After Republicans Refused To Wear Masks During The Capitol Attack” — BuzzFeed News.
While we’re busy talking about GOP recklessness, let’s talk about Gwen Moore.
On Dec. 28, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the Wisconsin Democratic representative announced she had tested positive for COVID-19. On Jan. 3, she announced on Twitter that she had been cleared to travel.
Thank you all for the well wishes. I am feeling good! My quarantine is over and I am medically cleared to travel and work on behalf of Wisconsin’s Fourth Congressional District.
— Rep. Gwen Moore (@RepGwenMoore) January 3, 2021
One detail was noticeably absent from the post. “All I know is she has been working with her doctors and she has been cleared to travel,” said Rep. Moore’s spokeswoman, Samara Sheff.
This isn’t a confirmation she tested positive, and it’s unlikely given that she was cleared to travel, but if you’re her spokeswoman and all that you know about whether or not your boss tested negative for COVID-19 before traveling to Washington is that she’d been “cleared to travel,” that’s a problem. The problem is bigger when your boss won’t confirm or deny it, either.
“I would like to reassure all of my colleagues, constituents, and the people who work within the Capitol complex that I have complied with all doctor and CDC guidelines following my COVID-19 diagnosis and isolation,” Moore wrote in a statement last Tuesday, according to Fox News.
“While I quarantined immediately upon exposure on December 22nd and tested positive the next day, I have been diligent in working with doctors to put my health and public health first.”
What’s missing there? The same thing that was missing when Sheff talked with the Journal Sentinel: Any mention that Moore had tested negative. Considering she’s a part of the House Progressive Caucus — the group Jayapal leads — the fact she wouldn’t confirm a negative test was disconcerting, even if she was cleared for travel. Yet, there’s barely a word about this.
It’s unlikely that Moore spread the virus to Jayapal. It’s possible someone close to her spread it, but we don’t know. It’s possible the individual in the room in the Capitol who likely had coronavirus spread it to Jayapal, but we don’t know.
Yet, Jayapal — and the media that enables her confirmation — still want you to believe that if you looked at her virus under an electron microscope, all the viral particles would have MAGA hats on.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.