AP FACT CHECK: No, Pelosi is not out to arrest mask refusers
WASHINGTON (AP) — A member of the House Republican leadership is spreading a false accusation that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is out to get people arrested if they refuse to wear a mask inside the premises.
Pelosi does not direct law enforcement in the House, and Capitol Police officials, who do, aren’t threatening to arrest mask resistors. Instead, staff members and visitors who won’t wear masks will be told to leave.
Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York, the No. 3 House Republican, retweeted the false allegation to her 227,000 Twitter followers, called Pelosi “authoritarian” and said she should be locked up. That gave wider visibility to the accusation leveled by Rep. Kat Cammack of Florida, who only has 13,000 followers.
CAMMACK tweet: “In today’s edition of Pelosi’s abuse of power, Capitol Police have been directed to arrest staff and visitors to comply with her mask mandate for vaccinated individuals. For Members, they advise not arresting but ‘reporting Members to SAA (House sergeant at arms) for their failure to comply.’”
THE FACTS: It’s not Pelosi’s mask mandate and it is wrong to state that Capitol Police have been directed to arrest staff and visitors who won’t put on a mask.
The Capitol Police force is overseen by a board made up of three nonpartisan officials: the House sergeant at arms, the Senate sergeant at arms and the Capitol architect. The decision to require masks in most situations inside the House came from another nonpartisan official, the House attending physician, Dr. Brian P. Monahan.
In response to the tweet, the Capitol Police said in a statement that “there is no reason it should ever come to someone being arrested. Anyone who does not follow the rules will be asked to wear a mask or leave the premises.”
The force’s guidance — posted in the tweet — said members of Congress and staff members accompanying them should not be arrested for failing to comply, but reported to the sergeant at arms. Other staff members, along with visitors, should be asked to leave. Only if they refuse to leave would they be subject to arrest, the guidance said, and that would be for unlawful entry.
The mask rule was reinstated this week after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended masks be worn in indoor public spaces in parts of the country with substantial coronavirus infections, driven by the delta variant. The recommendations apply both to vaccinated and unvaccinated people.
Monahan, the House physician, also did not threaten arrests. He noted that Congress is a collection of people who travel frequently from various risk areas, that the delta variant can be transmitted from vaccinated people and that it has been found among those in the Capitol.
The Senate, much less crowded than the House, has not instituted a mask mandate. Capitol police officers must wear them.
EDITOR’S NOTE — A look at the veracity of claims by political figures.
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