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'This Is A Sophisticated, Vaccinated Crowd' Says NYT Reporter In Defense Of Obama's Maskless Birthday Party

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A New York Times reporter dismissed criticism of Barrack Obama’s lavish 60th birthday party that took place over the weekend. “This is really being overblown,” said Annie Karni, who currently works as the outlet’s White House correspondent. “They’re following all the safety precautions, people have gone to sporting events bigger than this. This is going to be safe, this is a sophisticated, vaccinated crowd and this is just about optics, it’s not about safety,” Karni told CNN’s Jim Acosta.

Karni later attempted to clarify her statement in a follow-up tweet. “The Q was, what do people on the island think of the party? The A was me summarizing views of ppl I spoke with: some are upset + others think the concerns about it are overblown,” said Karni

Her comments were promptly mocked and criticized on social media. “A NYT reporter on CNN justifying Obama’s huge maskless birthday bash because he only invited ‘a sophisticated, vaccinated crowd’ is about as emblematic of liberal discourse as it gets,” wrote Glenn Greenwald in a tweet. “What happened to all the concerns about vaccinated people passing Delta to the unvaccinated?” 

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“Due to the new spread of the Delta variant over the past week, the President and Mrs. Obama have decided to significantly scale back the event to include only family and close friends,Obama communications director Hannah Hankins said in a statement last week. Obama’s “scaled back” birthday party still included over 200 people, including dozens of celebrities. Large tents were set up around the former president’s Martha’s Vineyard property, which includes a mansion the family bought in 2019 for $11.75 million. Guests included Don Cheadle, Stephen Colbert, Tom Hanks and dozens of others.

A rapper and performer at the event posted photos and videos before being made to delete them. In the leaked images, guests were seen maskless and without concern for social distancing measures. Many of the celebrity guests in attendance have been massive proponents of both masks and social distancing guidelines, including Obama. The former president himself spent plenty of time golfing over the weekend without a mask. Obama, Cheadle and others hit the links at the Vineyards Golf Club, a country club that commands a $350,000 initiation fee. Obama could later be seen dancing without a mask on a crowded dance floor in a video posted by singer Erykah Badu. 

Obama’s massive party took place less than a week after Martha’s Vineyard issued new mask guidelines. The updated guidelines urged residents and guests to wear masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status. “In accordance with the most recent CDC guidance and the fact that Dukes County is considered to be at substantial risk for COVID transmission, the Island boards of health strongly advise that individuals wear masks when indoors or in enclosed spaces serving the public or when unable to maintain social distance, regardless of vaccination status,” a county health official stated in a press release

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