Capitol physician called out for not wearing mask while briefing House members on new mask mandate

Republicans said Dr. Brian Monahan took off his mask while briefing them

A GOP congressman accused the Capitol attending physician of hypocrisy for going maskless in a Capitol meeting shortly after imposing new coronavirus mask mandates on lawmakers and staff. 

Rep. Drew Ferguson, R-Ga., said Dr. Brian Monahan took off his mask on Wednesday while addressing GOP members of Congress on the importance of the new mask mandate he announced this week

"The thing that was very surprising is in that room Dr. Monahan had violated his very own guidance and was sitting at a table next to other members of Congress without his mask on," Ferguson told Fox News on Thursday. 

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"It's the ‘rules for thee, none for me’ syndrome that so many Democrats have."

Brian Monahan, Congress' attending physician, reportedly didn't wear a mask while briefing lawmakers on the new mask mandate. 

Brian Monahan, Congress' attending physician, reportedly didn't wear a mask while briefing lawmakers on the new mask mandate.  (Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Monahan announced on Tuesday a new mask policy in the House to reflect updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to reduce the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant of coronavirus. 

In his memo explaining the new indoor mask policy for everyone – regardless of vaccination status – Monahan states:  "To be clear, for meetings in an enclosed US House of Representatives controlled space, masks are REQUIRED."

There are some exceptions to the rule, such as when an individual is alone and if a member of Congress is recognized to speak during a committee hearing or on the House floor, Monahan's memo states. In those "limited" circumstances, Monahan wrote, "removal of the mask to facilitate recognition is an option, followed by immediate replacement of the mask following the address."

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Dr. Ronny Jackson, a Texas congressman and former White House physician, also said Monahan entered the Capitol meeting room Wednesday afternoon wearing a mask, but took off his face covering when he got inside and talked to the GOP lawmakers.

Several phone calls Thursday seeking comment from Monahan's office from Fox News were not returned. 

Rep. Drew Ferguson, a Republican from Georgia's 3rd Congressional District, accused the Capitol's attending physician of hypocrisy. 

Rep. Drew Ferguson, a Republican from Georgia's 3rd Congressional District, accused the Capitol's attending physician of hypocrisy.  (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The meeting with Monahan Wednesday afternoon was designed to go over the new masking policy, but ended up being contentious as GOP lawmakers balked at the return of face coverings and accused Monahan of imposing new guidelines that were not based on science. 

"To say it was heated was an understatement," Ferguson said of the meeting.

Ferguson and other GOP lawmakers, including GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy, claimed the new CDC mask guidance that informed Monahan's decision was a result of an unpublished study of breakthrough cases in India that had not been peer-reviewed and was based on a vaccine not administered in the United States.

"No doctor that I know would ever treat patients on unpublished, unproven, non-peer-reviewed data," Ferguson told Fox News. "That's reckless. It's dangerous. And candidly, I think it's malpractice."

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But Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, came to Monahan's defense after the Capitol physician came under scathing criticism Wednesday from McCarthy during a floor speech condemning the mask policy. Ryan accused the GOP leader of trying to "score cheap political points" by attacking the doctor.

"Look, the attending physician of the United States Capitol, the top doctor for Congress, asks us to put on masks when we come to a chamber with 435 people," Ryan said. "I hate these things. Absolutely. It was terrible having to put this back on. And we do it because the top doctor for all of us asked us to." 

"I may not be from a hot spot," Ryan continued. "… Somebody in this chamber is coming from a hot spot." 

The House's new imposed mask mandate will be enforced by Capitol Police who were advised they can arrest visitors and staff who violate the policies. There is no new mask mandate on the Senate side of the Capitol.

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Meanwhile, Washington, D.C. announced it will restart its indoor mask mandate on Saturday to reflect the new federal guidelines. 

Fox News' Jason Donner contributed to this report.