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#ObamaVariant: An unlikely target for COVID outrage emerges

Conservatives are attacking the former president and Michelle Obama for hosting a mask-optional birthday party on Martha’s Vineyard over the weekend.

#ObamaVariant: An unlikely target for COVID outrage emerges
[Source Photos: White House and rawpixel]
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An American president presides over a COVID-era celebration where many of the attendees forgo masks. Outrage surrounds the entire affair, aimed at the president for needlessly risking the creation of a superspreader event.

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No, it’s not the infamous Rose Garden gathering for Amy Coney Barrett last October, which left several of its attendees infected with COVID-19, but rather Barack Obama’s 60th birthday party, which has been a lightning rod for controversy over the past couple weeks and left a new hashtag in its wake: #ObamaVariant.

When the former First Family announced the Martha’s Vineyard bash recently, they revealed that it would be held outside, follow all Centers for Disease Control and Prevention public health protocols, and include on-site testing for guests, overseen by a COVID safety coordinator. Plus, the party would take place in an area currently designated by the CDC as having “moderate” COVID-19 community spread, rather than the “high” and “substantial” risk level of nearly two-thirds of all U.S. counties, where mask use among the vaccinated is now recommended.

Despite all the safety measures announced alongside the party itself, conservative pundits expressed a perceived air of hypocrisy and poor role-modeling in the former president holding a large bash, as the delta variant continues ramping up in America. Fox News reporter Peter Doocy asked White House press secretary Jen Psaki about the matter at a briefing last week and the clip of it went mildly viral. Rather than assure the public of the party’s safety protocol, however, the clip intensified scrutiny around the party. Eventually, the Obamas announced that they were scaling back the former president’s party from a rumored 475-person guest list to “only family and close friends.”

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If that was meant to nullify criticism, though, it did not work. Conservative pundits and politicians over the weekend used the hashtag #ObamaVariant to suggest that the Martha’s Vineyard bash would be an equivalent to last year’s Rose Garden disaster.

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The former president’s defenders also used the hashtag in an attempt to counter the narrative, also contributing to its popularity in Twitter’s algorithm.

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Whether any of the people tweeting about the party’s superspreader possibilities are aware of the safety protocols in place at the event or the difference between hosting a celebration now and doing so in the pre-vaccination era, remains to be seen.