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Stacey Abrams comes under fire for not wearing a mask in now-deleted photos with masked schoolchildren

By Sarah Fortinsky, CNN

A since-deleted tweet featuring photos of a mask-less Stacey Abrams posing among masked schoolchildren has prompted swift backlash from political opponents who chastised the Georgia Democrat for what they describe as hypocritical behavior after she championed more stringent masking policies in schools.

The photos were originally tweeted Friday by the school’s principal, Holly Brookins, who wrote, “Extraordinary way to kick off the 3rd Annual African-American Read-In at Glennwood and Black History Month. Thrilled to host @staceyabrams author of Stacey’s Extraordinary Words!”

Abrams, a prominent Democratic organizer running for governor in Georgia, quote-tweeted the photos and thanked the principal for hosting her. Both tweets have since been deleted, and it appears as though Brookins’ account has also been deactivated.

The photos of the event at Glennwood Elementary School in Decatur, Georgia, prompted intense backlash from many who voiced frustration at masking policies — at a time when Covid-19 policies in schools have emerged as an intensely fraught issue in today’s politics. The city extended its indoor masking requirement on January 18 through February 22, and the City Schools of Decatur enforce similar masking rules.

Glennwood officials did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

On Sunday, the Abrams campaign responded to the growing outrage, taking aim at her political opponents who have chastised her in response to the photos but failing to provide an explanation behind the widely circulated photos.

“It is shameful that our opponents are using a Black History Month reading event for Georgia children as the impetus for a false political attack, and it is pitiful and predictable that our opponents continue to look for opportunities to distract from their failed records when it comes to protecting public health during the pandemic,” the campaign’s statement said.

It continued: “One of Stacey’s opponents downplayed the virus while trading stock to profit off the pandemic after his private coronavirus briefings as a Senator. Another of her opponents attacked mayors seeking to protect their citizens and has failed to expand access to Medicaid even as rural hospitals close. This pathetic, transparent and silly attack is beneath anyone who claims he wants to lead Georgia.”

Former Republican Sen. David Perdue, who is challenging Gov. Brian Kemp in the GOP gubernatorial primary, was investigated by the Department of Justice along with other members of Congress for insider stock trading linked to the coronavirus pandemic in 2020. The DOJ had closed all of its investigations into insider training against those members of Congress as of early 2021, CNN previously reported.

Lauren Groh- Wargo, Abrams’ campaign manager, later tweeted an additional statement addressing the masks specifically. “Stacey trusts science and supports masking in schools as it’s the current CDC recommendation. She wore a mask to the event, and removed it at the podium so she could be heard by students watching remotely and for photos, but only with folks who were masked.”

Among the political opponents who seized the opportunity to pounce was Kemp, who wrote in a tweet on his campaign account, “Stacey Abrams wants state government mask mandates for Georgians and their children. But it looks like they wouldn’t apply when she’s attending a photo op.” Abrams, a former state legislator, narrowly lost to Kemp in Georgia’s 2018 gubernatorial race.

Perdue also released a new campaign ad that features the photo of Abrams with the schoolchildren after the incident garnered significant attention.

GOP pundit Meghan McCain tweeted the photo and wrote, “UNMASK OUR KIDS!!!!!”

This story has been updated with additional reaction.

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