Stacey Abrams Goes on Offensive After GOP Blasts Maskless School Photo-Op

Stacey Abrams, a Democrat vying to become Georgia's next governor, on Sunday hit back against Republican foes following criticism of a photo-op in which she appeared maskless with a group of masked students.

Her campaign, in an Instagram post, called the criticism a "false political attack" while also taking the opportunity to highlight some of her opponents' alleged shortcomings.

The pictures gained widespread attention on Friday night when Abrams retweeted a post from a principal in Decatur, Georgia. In the photos, Abrams appears unmasked alongside masked students and staff, despite the school's mandate.

Despite the principal and Abrams deleting their tweets, the pictures soon began to circulate online and drew heat from conservative politicians and pundits. Republican Georgia Governor Brian Kemp accused her of flip-flopping on her support of mask mandates "when she's attending a photo-op."

"Stacey Abrams wants state government mask mandates for Georgians and their children," Tate Mitchell, press secretary for Kemp's 2022 reelection campaign, told Newsweek in a statement. "But it looks like they wouldn't apply when she's attending a photo-op. This kind of hypocrisy is exactly why Georgians see her campaign for governor for what it truly is: a quest for more power. Governor Kemp will continue fighting to put students and parents first."

"Where is Stacey's mask?" the campaign for Republican David Perdue, a challenger to Kemp endorsed by former President Donald Trump, said in a statement. "We all know Stacey Abrams' hypocrisy knows no bounds."

stacey abrams maskless photo op
Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams on Sunday hit back against critics blasting her for a photo-op in which she appeared maskless at an elementary school. Above, Abrams addresses supporters at an election watch party on November 6, 2018 in Atlanta during her prior campaign for state governor. Jessica McGowan/Getty Images

Perdue is a former Republican senator accused of conducting insider trading after a closed Senate meeting about the early days of the global COVID-19 outbreak.

"It is shameful that our opponents are using a Black History Month reading event for Georgia children as the impetus for a false political attack," the Abrams statement read. "And it is pitiful and predictable that our opponents continue to look for opportunities to distract from their failed records when it comes to protecting public health during the pandemic."

The statement continued, "One of Stacey's opponents downplayed the virus while trading stock to profit off the pandemic after his private coronavirus briefings as a Senator. Another of her opponents attacked mayors seeking to protect their citizens and has failed to expand access to Medicaid even as rural hospitals close. This pathetic, transparent and silly attack is beneath anyone who claims he wants to lead Georgia."

The statement references Perdue, who previously lost his seat to Jon Ossoff in the January 2021 runoff election that secured the U.S. Senate for Democrats.

Abrams, a veteran politician credited by many for helping secure Georgia for Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election, is running against Kemp in Georgia's 2022 gubernatorial race. She lost to him in 2018, when she became the first African-American woman nominated for governor by a major U.S. political party.

Abrams' specific stance on mask mandates in schools is unknown at this time. In July 2020, however, she criticized Kemp for blocking city-wide mask mandates. She said at the time:

"From the beginning of this catastrophe, Brian Kemp has demonstrated he has absolutely no competency in this process. This is the same man who didn't understand weeks after the world knew that asymptomatic people could spread the disease. He has thwarted the attempt of the mayor of Savannah, the first mayor to issue this edict, recently, saying that if you're going to come to Savannah, you've got to wear a mask."