Denver Mayor Michael Hancock apologized to critics who have pointed to his Wednesday travel plans visiting his family in Mississippi as hypocritical after he advised Coloradans to hold “virtual gatherings” in light of the escalating coronavirus pandemic.
Hancock came under fire after reports surfaced that he boarded a flight to Houston Wednesday morning, before heading to Mississippi to visit his wife and daughter.
“I recognize that my decision has disappointed many who believe it would have been better to spend Thanksgiving alone,” Hancock said in a statement Wednesday evening. “As a public official, whose conduct is rightly scrutinized for the message it sends to others, I apologize to the residents of Denver who see my decision as conflicting with the guidance to stay at home for all but essential travel.”
“I made my decision as a husband and father, and for those who are angry and disappointed, I humbly ask you to forgive decisions that are borne of my heart and not my head,” he added.
Colorado’s Gov. Jared Polis said he was not aware of Hancock’s travel plans after he was asked by reporters Wednesday, though Polis said he had chosen to cancel his holiday plans to "set example as governor,” despite not having seen his parents in nine months.
Hancock raised eyebrows posting a public service announcement on Twitter, warning people to stay home over Thanksgiving as cases of coronavirus have spiked in Denver.
Minutes before his flight, he released a tweet warning people to “Pass the potatoes, not COVID,” and advised them to “Host virtual gatherings instead of in-person dinners” and “Avoid travel, if you can.”
“I fully acknowledge that I have urged everyone to stay home and avoid unnecessary travel,” Hancock said before explaining that both his wife and daughter had moved to Mississippi. “As the holiday approached, I decided it would be safer for me to travel to see them than to have two family members travel back to Denver.”
A spokesmen for the mayor told NBC’s local news outlet that the mayor would quarantine for 14 days upon his return.
In an email obtained by the outlet, Hancock had advised his staff to forego traveling if possible, telling them if they do travel out of state lines, they will be required to self-isolate for two weeks.
“[A]s the holidays approach, we all long to be with our families [in] person, but with the continued rise in cases, I’m urging you to refrain from travel this Thanksgiving holiday,” Hancock wrote earlier this month. “For my family that means cancelling our traditional gathering of our extended family.”
The mayor also reportedly advised his staff members, that if they were not in the position to quarantine and continue their work, they would be required to use their own paid lead to self-isolate.