President Biden has "bigger issues" to worry about than following his own rule about wearing a face mask on federal property, according to White House press secretary Jennifer Psaki.
The new president ditched his face mask for a period of time while addressing the public Wednesday from the Lincoln Memorial, on federal land, and as he stood at the foot of the statue of the nation’s 16th president, C-SPAN footage shows. He put his mask on after the address. Hours earlier, he had signed a mandate requiring masks on federal property, as well as on interstate public travel.
The older Biden grandchildren and Biden’s daughter Ashley were also spotted without masks.
Fox News’ Peter Doocy questioned the press secretary about the Biden family’s maskless moments during a Thursday briefing. Psaki said that the president had been "celebrating" a "historic day in our country." She said he’d been surrounded by family.
She said that the mask mandate had "sent a message" to the public about the importance of mask-wearing.
"We take a number of Covid precautions here, as you know," Psaki continued. "I don't know that I have more for you on it than that."
Doocy pointed to a phrase Biden coined in his Inaugural address about leading "not merely by the example of our power but by the power of our example."
"Was that a good example for people watching?" Doocy asked.
"I think we have bigger issues to worry about at this moment in time," Psaki said.
"Wearing masks isn’t a partisan issue — it’s a patriotic act that can save countless lives," Biden tweeted on Wednesday evening. "That’s why I signed an executive order today issuing a mask mandate on federal property. It’s time to mask up, America."
Biden's executive order, the "100-day masking challenge," will require masks and social distancing in all federal buildings, on all federal land and by federal employees and contractors, and on airlines, trains, and transit systems traveling between states.
While a president cannot tell state and local officials what to require, Biden’s order will urge states to enact their own mandates. Most states have already done so.
During his inaugural address, the new commander in chief warned that the nation's "darkest and most deadly" coronavirus pandemic days could be ahead of it.
Earlier in the news conference, Dr. Anthony Fauci said that despite "a very, very high rate" of coronavirus cases, the U.S. may have reached a plateau. "There are always lags … but deaths and hospitalizations may be going up … it’s not an unusual thing to see that."
Fox News' Evie Fordham contributed to this report.