Denver mayor apologises after flying for Thanksgiving against his own advice

Miranda Bryant in New York
·3 min read
<span>Photograph: David Zalubowski/AP</span>
Photograph: David Zalubowski/AP

The mayor of Denver was forced to apologise after flying to Mississippi to spend Thanksgiving with his family – shortly after urging residents to follow official advice and remain at home because of the coronavirus.

Related: US Covid cases, hospitalisations and deaths rise amid Thanksgiving rush

On Wednesday, Michael Hancock shared pandemic Thanksgiving advice on Twitter, advising people to “Pass the potatoes, not Covid”, by staying home as much as possible and by being sure to “avoid travel”.

About 30 minutes later, according to 9News, the Democrat ignored his own advice, and that of city and federal officials, by getting on a plane to spend the holiday with his wife and daughter.

The Colorado city – which has recorded 34,212 cases and 515 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University – has officially urged residents to celebrate Thanksgiving only with immediate members of their households and not to travel.

Dr Anthony Fauci, America’s top infectious diseases expert, has also warned of the dangers of traveling over Thanksgiving.

Hancock apologised and said his decision was “born of my heart and not my head”.

He said: “I fully acknowledge that I have urged everyone to stay home and avoid unnecessary travel … My wife and my daughter have been in Mississippi, where my daughter recently took a job. As the holiday approached, I decided it would be safer for me to travel to see them than to have two family members travel back to Denver.

“As a public official, whose conduct is rightly scrutinised for the message it sends to others, I apologise to the residents of Denver who see my decision as conflicting with the guidance to stay at home for all but essential travel.

“I made my decision as a husband and father, and for those who are angry and disappointed, I humbly ask you to forgive decisions that are born of my heart and not my head.”

Hancock was promptly accused of hypocrisy by furious residents – many of whom had cancelled Thanksgiving travel plans – and politicians on both sides of the aisle.

Tay Anderson, Denver school board director, tweeted: “Hey America, Denver is looking for a new mayor. (One that follows their own guidelines re Covid). Anyone have any suggestions?”

He added: “How many Denverites wanted to see their family for the holiday? I know my grandmother has been sick and at any moment we could lose her, but I didn’t travel to Kansas because we need to stop the spread!”

Brianna Titone, a Democratic state representative, declared the mayor a turkey and a “bad example”.

Lauren Boebert, a Republican congresswoman-elect who has expressed support for the QAnon conspiracy theory, wrote: “When Denver mayor Michael Hancock goes against his own orders, Denver residents need to stop taking orders from Mayor Hancock.”

Other government officials have been criticised for going against their own coronavirus advice.

New York’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, was forced to backtrack after announcing that he would spend Thanksgiving with his mother and daughters in Albany, despite telling his constituents to avoid such gatherings.

California’s governor, Gavin Newsom, apologised after attending a friend’s birthday dinner earlier this month, with people from outside his household.