NCGOP, elected leaders flout pandemic rules at 'Victory Party'
Posted December 11, 2020 5:49 p.m. EST
Updated December 11, 2020 6:21 p.m. EST
Raleigh, N.C. — Last Saturday, as North Carolina broke a record with more than 6,000 new cases of coronavirus, a group of Republican leaders and elected officials gathered for an indoor "Victory Party" and meeting at a resort in Elkin.
Elkin is in Surry County, currently classified as a pandemic "red" zone county by state health officials, meaning there's a critical level of viral spread there.
Photos posted online by the North Carolina Republican Party show dozens of attendees from across the state, most not wearing masks or distancing from one another.
The photos show state House Speaker Tim Moore and U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis apparently socializing without basic precautions, as well as 6th District Congressman Mark Walker, Lt. Gov.-elect Mark Robinson, and North Carolina Supreme Court Justice-elect Phil Berger Jr.
Party Chairman Michael Whatley and Vice Chairwoman Michele Nix were also photographed without masks or distancing, as was state Rep. Chuck McNeely, R-Iredell.
The state has been under a mask mandate since June, but Republican leaders have repeatedly flouted it. The event also appears to have violated Gov. Roy Cooper's current 10-person limit for indoor gatherings.
Robinson declined to talk to WRAL News on Friday about the event. Moore's office also declined to comment, and the state GOP didn't respond to multiple requests for comment.
Duke University political science professor Mac McCorkle said he thinks it was a nod to similar parties with few precautions thrown by President Donald Trump, who has also frequently mocked people for wearing masks.
"It’s certainly an act of resistance against the 'deep state,' against liberals," McCorkle said. "It's an ideological statement that they refuse to support the science and the public policy supporting masks."
McCorkle says it's fair to debate the best ways to deal with the pandemic. But that's not the same thing as refusing to acknowledge it.
"We should welcome an honest, mature debate about these issues," he said. "But to just be acting out – acts of resistance – and then not wanting to explain them? Wow. We’ve come to a bad point here."
Tillis publicly apologized in August after he was maskless in a crowd at a Republican National Convention event at the White House. He then went on to contract the virus at another White House event in September, but has since recovered. After that, he vowed to always follow rules for wearing masks and keeping his distance from others.
His office didn't respond to a request for comment on Friday.
Cooper spokeswoman Dory MacMillan issued a statement urging leaders and elected officials to set politics aside and lead by example.