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Kevin McCarthy Claims CDC Changed Mask Guidance to Distract From Gas Prices

Newsweek logo Newsweek 5/15/2021 Darragh Roche
Kevin McCarthy wearing a suit and tie: U.S. House Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) speaks during his weekly news conference June 25, 2020 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. McCarthy linked new CDC mask guidance to recent gasoline shortages. © Alex Wong/Getty Images U.S. House Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) speaks during his weekly news conference June 25, 2020 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. McCarthy linked new CDC mask guidance to recent gasoline shortages.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has claimed that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revised their guidance on masks as a result of the spike in gas prices.

McCarthy participated in a joint interview with Fox News' Sean Hannity on Friday alongside House Minority Whip Steve Scalise and newly elected House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik.

The interview focused on the Republican agenda, Stefanik's new role and discussion of former President Donald Trump but McCarthy also took the opportunity to criticize the CDC's advice on masks.

Hannity asked McCarthy about his recent meeting with President Joe Biden.

"I saw the picture," Hannity said. "You were socially distanced, you all had your masks on etc. Now I guess you don't have to wear the mask. We'll see next time."

McCarthy jumped in on the issue of mask-wearing.

"You know the only reason why they changed not wearing the mask? Because gasoline went to $7. There was gasoline lines. They wanted to change the news," McCarthy said.

"We could have stopped wearing our masks long ago," he added.

"I believe in the vaccine. I've been vaccinated. I don't need to wear the mask," he said. "We need to get back to work, back to school, back to health and back to normal. It's simple. That's the only thing we should be focused on."

McCarthy may have been referring to a gas station in Richmond, Virginia, which was selling regular, unleaded gasoline at $6.99 a gallon on Tuesday. However, this appears to be an outlier.


Video: Businesses can still decide their own mask requirements as CDC lifts restrictions (MSNBC)

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Nonetheless, the retail price of a gallon of gasoline passed $3 for the first time in six years this week following the shutdown of the Colonial Pipeline on May 7 due to a ransomware attack. There was also some panic buying as gas stations ran short of supply.

The CDC is widely regarded as a politically independent scientific body. Fox News' Pete Doocy asked White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on Friday if anyone in the Biden administration had updated the guidance "for political reasons."

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Psaki flatly denied that the White House had influenced the CDC's decision, saying it was guided by the science.

"That was not a decision directed by, made by the White House. The White House was informed of that decision," Psaki said. "I know I am reassured by listening to the guidance of health and medical experts, not political decision-making."

The agency's new guidance says that fully vaccinated people don't need to wear face masks in most indoor and outdoor settings. Some states immediately adopted the guidance, while others are reviewing it while keeping their mask mandates in place for now.

McCarthy also praised former President Trump during the interview with Hannity, saying Biden doesn't "have the energy of Donald Trump."

"We both know it. Donald Trump didn't need to sleep five hours a night. And he would be engaged," McCarthy said.

Newsweek has asked Representative Kevin McCarthy, the CDC and the White House for comment.

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