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Tenn. governor defends sitting maskless among 1,500 people at White House

Gov Bill Lee at RNC.jpeg
Posted at 6:42 PM, Sep 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-03 21:19:30-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee defended his decision to go maskless last week while observing the last night of the Republican National Convention at the White House.

Lee, who has repeatedly urged Tennesseans to avoid large crowds and to wear face masks in the fight against COVID-19, posed in a mask with three other GOP governors prior to the night's ceremonies.

But, during Ivanka Trump's speech, NewsChannel 5 spotted Lee and his wife Maria in the sea of 1,500 people attending the event.

Neither was wearing a face covering.

NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked Lee, "Why should people do what you say, rather than what you did?"

"What I did," Lee answered, "was look at the situation we were in and make a decision based on whether or not those seats were distanced. The wind was blowing. It was outdoors. I have that decision to make, every one of us do.

"I've said all along: this is a personal responsibility Tennesseans should take. Yes, people should wear masks where they believe they can't be appropriately safe with regard to close contact. That's the decision we made that night, and I think it was the right one for me and Maria."

NewsChannel 5 continued, "Given that stance, why should Tennesseans heed your admonitions to practice social distancing and wear masks?"

Lee answered, "Because that's the best way to mitigate the spread of the virus."

Lee insisted he wore a mask when moving around the White House lawn.

While the governor made a distinction in his case about being outdoors, his own executive order allows high school football and other sports that follow rules set up by the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association.

The TSSAA rules require social distancing and face coverings.

Lee said that he had taken a COVID test since returning from the White House.

While the governor did not give a direct answer when asked about the results of the test, his press secretary said the test was negative.