A tiny but vocal minority of readers has asked why I haven’t written about the John Kerry mask incident since this week. When I say “tiny” and “singing” I mean exactly that – it’s like three people, but they each left a handful of comments. Ultimately, I’m happy to report back and share my attitude, even if my attitude is “I’m not sure”.
John Kerry’s maskless airplane picture
77-year-old John Kerry, the US president’s special envoy on climate, has some problems with an incident on an American Airlines flight from Boston to Washington on Wednesday.
In a picture that is widely shared online, Kerry is reading a book with the mask dangling from one ear.
The last time I flew with American, I was harassed by a flight attendant because my mask came off my nose easily
I know people who have been banned from LIFE for not wearing a mask properly
– Ashley StClair @ (@stclairashley) March 17, 2021
Both the federal mask mandate and American Airlines guidelines require that passengers on airplanes always wear masks unless they are briefly removed to eat or drink.
Kerry referred to this story as “Malarkey” and stated that when he dropped the mask on one ear on a flight, it was temporary. He wears masks because this saves lives and because science tells us to.
It feels like there’s a St. Patrick’s Day “Malarkey” going on on Twitter. Let’s be clear: if I dropped my mask on one ear during a flight, it was only for a moment. I wear my mask because it saves lives and stops the spread. That’s what science tells us.
– President’s Special Envoy John Kerry (@ClimateEnvoy) March 17, 2021
I find his reaction strange when he says, “If I drop my mask.” There is a picture of him with his mask off. So if you ask me, there is no response to this incident.
In the meantime, American Airlines has been investigating the incident and has determined that Kerry has been reminded of his mask guidelines and that no crew member has observed Kerry without a mask. In addition, there were no complaints from other passengers about mask compliance issues with him.
Analysis of the image of Kerry maskless
All we have here is a single picture. So let’s try to analyze this objectively:
- It looks to me like Kerry’s glasses are fogged up or just dirty
- If they are fogged up (and I’m not sure if they are – the photo quality is not great) it suggests that the mask was removed just a moment ago
- If so, was he taking off the mask for a moment for some reason, or was he just having trouble fogging up his glasses and decided he wouldn’t wear his mask while reading?
- He seems pretty focused on his book, which begs the question of whether he’s read without a mask for a long time
- There is a bottle of water in the picture, but it seems to belong to the passenger in the aisle seat. That being said, we don’t know if Kerry had a bottle of water from which he drank right next to him or what
- I haven’t seen any claims from passengers about what happened beyond the picture – in other words, I didn’t hear anyone suggest that they left the mask off for an extended period of time and refused to put it on when asked, etc.
My take on this story
If Kerry actually let his mask dangle like that for a long period of time, he was absolutely wrong and should be called for it. Some thoughts:
- Airlines generally ban people for mask compliance issues when an employee asks them to put on their mask and they refuse to do so. As a result, you typically don’t get banned from an airline without an agent intervening. American Airlines has confirmed that no employee has seen Kerry without a mask
- I would assume that Kerry is vaccinated and therefore poses minimal risk to others (based on initial studies suggesting that asymptomatic spread of the vaccinated is rare) but ultimately it shouldn’t matter – the mandate applies to everyone, also for those who are vaccinated
- We just don’t end up knowing much – we have a single picture and there is no eyewitness testimony that I saw claiming anything
To address the comments I’ve received along these lines:
“Not an article about John Kerry not wearing a mask, but you’re happy to blow up Ted Cruz for the same? “
So yes no:
- You have to confuse me for someone else because I’ve never written about Ted Cruz not wearing a mask (that happened, I just decided not to write about it because I didn’t think it was a big story); The only time I wrote about Cruz in the past year was a United Airlines data breach when its Cancun reservations were exposed
- The only time I’ve treated politicians on airplanes for coronavirus was when several congressmen flew Delta after being in direct contact with Trump when he had coronavirus, which went against Delta’s policy of not being able to fly if one is knowingly was in contact with someone who tested positive
A single still image of someone not wearing a mask on the plane is not a story in itself, in my opinion. And that’s how I feel about this situation – we don’t have enough information one way or another, regardless of political affiliation.
I was on a flight a while ago and the ear loop on my mask snapped. I held the mask to my mouth while I pulled out a replacement mask, but of course there was a brief period when my mouth wasn’t covered and I didn’t eat or drink. There might as well be a picture of me (not that anyone would care to take it, but …).
There’s a picture of John Kerry in a mask dangling from one ear on an American Airlines flight this week. That’s all we know – there is only one picture. I have not heard any passengers claiming that he took the mask off for an extended period of time and the crew claim they did not see this and received no complaints for other passengers.
Without further information, I don’t think this is a story, but in my quest to be fair and balanced, you’re good to go. It’s certainly the less interesting airplane story of the week that involves an ear …
How do you see this mask incident?