Texas state Democrats who left for Washington, D.C. in protest of GOP voting legislation were photographed on a private plane without masks in violation of the federal mask mandate for transportation.
The photos went viral on social media on Monday evening.
"I’m glad to see these Texas Democrat lawmakers are supportive of my legislation to make masks optional on airplanes," wrote Tennessee Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn on Twitter.
Just the News on Tuesday asked state Democratic Rep. Barbara Gervin-Hawkins for her reaction to the backlash the lawmakers have received for not wearing masks.
"We're comfortable because we've all been vaccinated. And so think about what CDC is saying, that if you have been vaccinated, OK, that a mask is not required. The state of Texas has opened it up. We left from the state of Texas,” she said after a news conference on Capitol Hill where the lawmakers called on Congress to pass the Democrats' federal election reform bill.
"So we're going to follow the rules. Let's follow the rules all the way. So I will suggest that anybody who has not been vaccinated needs to wear their mask, but I feel comfortable because I've had both my shots."
Gervin-Hawkins was also asked whether she thinks Congress should end the mask mandate for airports, planes buses and trains.
"I truly believe that we've got to follow the CDC guidelines when you're on a plane or a train and you don't know most of the people on there, you don't know who's been vaccinated or not on that plane," she said. "We were on that bus. We know that everybody has been vaccinated. So I think when you have public places with unknown people, you still need to be safe."
Texas state Rep. Rhetta Bowers told Just the News she and others on the chartered flight weren't wearing masks because they knew everyone on the plane was vaccinated but that she still supports the federal mask mandate for public transportation.
"Well, it wasn't a commercial flight, and we were fully vaccinated. We're around each other working 140 days hard for our constituents and we're all vaccinated," she said. "I feel strongly about wearing masks as I have them right here in my hand and I encourage everyone to get vaccinated especially with the delta variant out there."
State Rep. Donna Howard said she wasn't aware the mask mandate applied to charter flights.
"This is something I feel is really outrageous that we are being criticized about by the same people who have been refusing to wear masks back in Texas and allowing things to spread," she said. "But the fact is that as far as I can read, we weren't violating anything. We're all fully vaccinated."
Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul has proposed legislation to end the mask mandate on all forms of transportation.
Howard was asked if she agrees with that idea.
"I want to follow the science and the evidence," she responded. "I am fully supportive of what the physicians and scientists tell us as appropriate to do. I put my trust and faith and science here."