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Biden not complying with own mask mandate, White House says 'bigger things to worry about'

The new White House press secretary was asked why the president was observed maskless at a Lincoln Memorial inaugural event, despite having just hours before ordered masks to be worn on federal property.

Updated: January 22, 2021 - 12:14am

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White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on Thursday said "we have bigger issues to worry about" than whether President Biden and members of his family were complying with his own new federal masking mandate after the president and multiple family members were seen maskless at an inaugural event. 

Psaki was asked at a White House press conference why Biden on Wednesday night was observed maskless while attending an event at the Lincoln Memorial, something that would appear forbidden under the mask mandate Biden himself had implemented via executive order just hours before.

"He was celebrating an evening of a historic day in our country," Psaki replied, explaining that Biden "signed the mask mandate because it's a way to send a message to the American public about the importance of wearing masks, how it can save tens of thousands of lives."

Pressed on Biden's going without a mask at one point during the festivities, Psaki continued: "Yesterday was a historic moment in our history. [Biden] was inaugurated as president of the United States. He was surrounded by his family. We take a number of precautions. But I think we have bigger issues to worry about at this moment in time."

The mandate, a long-promised executive order, directs that "on-duty or on-site Federal employees, on-site Federal contractors, and other individuals in Federal buildings and on Federal lands should all wear masks, maintain physical distance, and adhere to other public health measures, as provided in CDC guidelines."

CDC guidelines on masking claim that Americans two years old and above "should wear masks in public settings and when around people who don't live in their household." The agency further instructs that a mask is "NOT a substitute for social distancing" and that face coverings "should still be worn in addition to staying at least 6 feet apart" from other people. 

CSPAN video shows Biden without a face covering while listening to a cello rendition of "Amazing Grace" by Yo-Yo Ma. 

Other photos from the night show Biden's daughter Ashley as well as multiple Biden grandchildren clustered close together without wearing face coverings. 

The CDC does instruct that masks "may not be necessary when you are outside by yourself away from others, or with other people who live in your household." It is not clear if the Biden grandchildren live together. 

In the CSPAN footage, meanwhile, Biden was observed standing maskless near at least one other person. He was later seen standing in close proximity to numerous journalists without a mask on.

The White House did not respond to a request for comment on Thursday by Just the News.

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