Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who is running to win back his seat in November, defended himself for not wearing a face covering on an Amtrak train over the summer, violating federal mask mandates, saying "we can always do better."
Fox News exclusively obtained photos of McAuliffe on a train from New York City’s Moynihan Train Hall at Penn Station on the night of July 29.
The photo shows McAuliffe walking down the aisle of an Amtrak train, on a phone call, and not wearing a face covering. McAuliffe is seen standing under Amtrak's sign stating face masks are required. The relatively empty train car does show a passenger in the distance wearing a mask, and the passenger behind McAuliffe with a white strap over his ear, signaling that he, too, was wearing a mask.
When asked by ABC 13 News this week about not wearing his mask, McAuliffe replied: "I’m very good about wearing my mask."
"I think we can all always do better," McAuliffe said. "It was 1 o’clock in the morning on an empty train."
He added: "But we can always do better and I think it’s important."
Amtrak’s website states: "Federal law requires all customers and employees to wear a mask at all times while onboard trains and in stations, regardless of vaccination status or state or local laws."
"Refusing to wear a mask is a violation of federal law; passengers may be subject to penalties under federal law, denied boarding, removed from the train, and banned from future travel in the event of noncompliance," Amtrak states.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an order in January that required face masks to be worn by all people while on public transportation. That order also required all individuals to wear masks while at transportation hubs, including airports, bus or ferry terminals, train and subway stations, and other locations where people board public transportation in the United States.
The McAuliffe campaign did not comment on the photos of the candidate, but slammed his Republican opponent, Glenn Youngkin, saying that he has "an extensive history" of not following CDC mask guidance.
"Glenn Youngkin has shown Virginians he will be a failure when it comes to controlling this pandemic and rebuilding Virginia’s economy," McAuliffe spokesman Renzo Olivari told Fox News. "Glenn has an extensive history of not following CDC mask guidelines dating back to the worst periods of the COVID-19 pandemic, and he peddles such dangerous anti-vaxx and anti-mask rhetoric that doctors in Virginia have begged him to stop undermining measures that will prevent the spread of this virus."
Olivari added: "Terry is the only candidate in this race who has a plan to get Virginians vaccinated, keep our kids in schools, and create a better future for all Virginians."
As for Youngkin, he has attended some events without wearing masks or face coverings. There is no Virginia law requiring masks, but Virginia currently says individuals should wear a mask in public indoor settings in areas of substantial and high transmission of COVID-19.
Virginia Beach currently is an area of high transmission.
Virginia follows the federal order for both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals, saying individuals "must wear a mask when using public transportation… as well as in indoor transportation hubs, such as airports and stations."
"Youngkin follows the law and respects those around him by wearing a mask whenever and wherever it is necessary," Youngkin campaign spokesman Christian Martinez told Fox News.
McAuliffe, 64, won Virginia's Democratic primary in June. A former businessman and investor, McAuliffe served as governor from 2014 to 2018. He served as chairman of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in 2008 and as chairman of the Democratic National Committee from 2001 to 2005.
McAuliffe is facing off against Youngkin for governor on Nov. 2.