Abrams apologizes after more maskless pictures of Georgia governor candidate surface

Apology follows Abrams campaign initially calling photo backlash "pathetic, transparent and silly"
Stacey Abrams

Georgia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams has apologized for recently appearing without a COVID-19 mask in multiple photos with elementary school students.

Abrams, a Democratic politician of national prominence, told the media that she removed her mask to read to the students last week so that those listening in other classrooms would better be able to hear the presentation and suggested she got caught up in the moment. 

"In the excitement after I finished, because it was so much fun working with those kids, I took a picture. And that was a mistake," said Abrams, who had taken part in a reading event celebrating Black History Month.

"Protocols matter, and protecting our kids is the most important thing, and anything that can be perceived as undermining that is a mistake, and I apologize," she said Tuesday night on CNN. 

The Abrams campaign and the school's principal tweeted a since-deleted picture of the candidate without a mask while seated with children each wearing one, sparking the backlash.

Abrams apologized after more pictures of the school event surfaced, a reversal from her campaign saying Sunday that the criticism was "pathetic, transparent and silly."

Abrams is a former state legislator whose get-out-the vote efforts last year helped Democrats win two Senate seats in Georgia.

The backlash comes amid grown calls in recent days and weeks among Americans to end mask mandates and attempt to live with the virus, as the pandemic enters its third year. 

Incumbent Georgia GOP Gov. Brian Kemp and primary challenger former Georgia Sen. David Perdue have attempted to channel the outrage by telling potential voters they would end mask mandates in school if elected in November.

Kemp has now called on the "remaining few [school] systems with mandates to join the vast majority of Georgia schools," which are not instituting such requirements.