After being roundly criticized by liberals and conservatives alike late last week over his attendance at a birthday party for a key advisor/lobbyist held at the famed "French Laundry", California Gov. Gavin Newsom has released a lengthy video apology where he apologizes for what his team has characterized as "an error in judgment".
Newsom explained that he had been invited to a "friend's birthday" party in Napa, which at the time was in "orange" status, and the reservations were made at an outdoor restaurant. Newsom said that he didn't realize until after he arrived that it was a larger group than he had anticipated.
"Instead of sitting down, I should have stood up," Newsom said, before acknowledging that "the spirit of what I'm preaching all the time has been contradicted, and I need to own that." Newsom added that he has been out socially "just three times" since February, twice with him and his wife, along with this dinner.
"I shouldn't have been there, I should have turned back around, when that happens, you pay the price, but you own the mistake and you never make it again, you have my word on that," he concluded.
Gov. Gavin Newsom apologizes for attending party at French Laundry: "We're all human. We all fall short sometimes." pic.twitter.com/GPegzxt0dl— The Hill (@thehill) November 17, 2020
Gavin's apology follows a scathing editorial published by the Sacramento Bee, an influential capital-area newspaper which slammed the governor's hypocrisy. "We certainly hope Gov Newsom and his wife...enjoyed their dinner...because it will end up costing a lot more than $700 in terms of damage to Newsom's reputation."
Though the editorial was published before Newsom made his apology, the SacBee pointed out that Newsom's description of the birthday dinner as a social event involving his wife and friends is misleading. The party was for Jason Kinney, described as Newsom's "favorite lobbyist and longtime advisor."
SacBee then goes on to "unpack the layers of bad judgment." First, the uber-expensive three-michelin-star dinner.
First, there’s the uber-expensive dinner at a restaurant the vast majority of Californians will never have a chance to visit. This is a bad look for an elected official at any time, but especially during a pandemic that has claimed more than 18,000 lives in California and devastated the state’s economy. It’s no secret that the Newsoms have tons of money, but it’s très gauche of them to flaunt it at a time like this.
Second: Kinney's hypocrisy - claiming to care deeply about solving climate change while approving fracking permits.
Second, the exquisite dinner was held to celebrate the 50th birthday of Kinney, a Newsom insider and lobbying firm partner with a knack for getting his way in the corridors of power. For example, Newsom — who claims to care deeply about climate change — came under fire from environmentalists earlier this year after his administration approved fracking permits for Aera Energy. Who represents Aera in Sacramento?
"That company, Aera Energy — a joint venture of Shell and ExxonMobil - is represented by the lobbying firm Axiom Advisors. Axiom’s lobbyists include Jason Kinney, a senior advisor to Newsom while he served as lieutenant governor, and Kevin Schmidt, a policy director for Newsom during the same time period," reported Steve Horn of Capital & Main. "Kinney’s wife, Mary Gonsalves Kinney, Capital & Main previously reported, is also the personal stylist for First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom."
And finally, there's the "stunning hypocrisy".
Kinney, a partner at Axiom Advisors, also served on Newsom’s transition team. The governor’s decision to attend Kinney’s birthday soirée during a pandemic demonstrates that this cozy relationship has the power to cloud Newsom’s judgment. Finally, there’s the stunning hypocrisy. Newsom and the First Partner eschewed state public health guidelines to dine with friends at a time when the governor has asked families to scale back Thanksgiving plans. News of Newsom’s fancy feast spread like wildfire on social media and was trending on Twitter Friday afternoon. Newsom’s haute cuisine hypocrisy is a disaster for the state’s efforts to get Californians to understand the deadly threat of COVID-19. He just handed more ammunition to Republican leaders who have decried the state’s emergency shutdowns of restaurants, gyms and churches. If the governor can eat out with friends — and if his children can attend their expensive school — why must everyone else sacrifice?
If even the governor is starting to suffer from quarantine fatigue, as he intimated during his apology when he pointed out that he has been out socially only 3 times since February, what hope does the state have of convincing 40 million Californians to comply?