Matt Gaetz allowed to mock coronavirus with gas mask in congress, after black lawmaker 'forcibly removed' for wearing hoodie

Sirena Bergman@SirenaBergman
Saturday 07 March 2020 10:00
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(Getty/Twitter/indy100)

Democratic congressman Bobby Rush has called out the double standards of the House of Representatives after Republican Matt Gaetz was allowed to wear a gas mask in congress, making light of the coronavirus epidemic, while Rush was "forcibly removed" for wearing a hoodie to raise awareness of racial profiling of black men.

In 2012, Illinois representative Rush wore a hoodie on the house floor. Rush, who is African American, was trying to raise awareness of racial profiling following the shooting of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin. At the time, the incident was widely reported, with some estimates suggesting it received more press than the presidential election.

George Zimmerman, who shot Martin, would go on to be acquitted of murder in 2013, sparking the #BlackLivesMatter movement.

Around one in every 1,000 black men and boys die in America at the hands of the police, making it one of the leading causes of death among this demographic (needless to say, this is not the case for their white counterparts).

It's an issue which lawmakers had systematically failed to address, and Rush's acknowledgement of that fact was important both in its symbolism and visibility – but the establishment disagreed.

Rush was removed based on a rule which doesn't allow members of congress to wear hats, but a hoodie is clearly not a hat. Neither is a gas mask, obviously, but both cover parts of the head and face, so it's hard to understand how logically one could be allowed over the other.

Trump supporting Matt Gaetz presumably thought it would be amusing to come into congress wearing a full gas mask as some sort of joke relating to coronavirus, which has killed 14 Americans.

He claimed that members of congress were the most likely to become infected with coronavirus, because "we fly through the dirtiest airports" and "touch everyone we meet".

This is clearly false. For starters, people in China, which has reported around 80 per cent of the 102,000 cases we've seen thus far, are clearly more at risk than anyone in America. When it comes to risk of death, the main contributing factor is pre-existing conditions.

It's worth noting that in the US 44 million people don't have health insurance, while a further 38 million have "inadequate" insurance. The cost of testing for coronavirus can reach $3,270, more than 3.5 times the average weekly income in America ($865), according to 2017 figures.

The coronavirus outbreak has led to the spread of misinformation (including by President Trump himself), leading to arguably unwarranted panic. However, as cases rise in America, there is clearly reason for concern.

In one fell swoop Gaetz managed to feed in to the hysteria while also mocking a situation which has led to thousands of deaths. Pretty shocking behaviour for an elected official entrusted with representing the interests of the American people.

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