Public figures have a responsibility to set an example for others, especially when it comes to protecting the public’s health.
So what example was congressional candidate Liz Joy hoping to set during the height of a growing worldwide pandemic when she staged an in-person Election Night gathering in Glenville in which almost none of the several dozen guests were wearing masks and in which many were sitting in close proximity to one another?
A video and photographs taken at the event by our reporter and staff photographer confirmed the display.
Thumbing her nose at public health and putting supporters at risk of contracting the coronavirus is not exactly the way to show your potential future constituents (she lost) that you’re taking this situation, or your role as a public leader, seriously.
Other candidates on Election Night, both Republicans and Democrats, took proper precautions to protect their supporters from the virus.
Fellow Republican candidate, Rep. Elise Stefanik, held her in-person Election Night event in a tent outside, and photos of her event showed people social distancing and wearing masks. Stefanik’s opponent, Democrat Tedra Cobb, held a small gathering in a hotel room, following covid health guidelines.
Other area candidates, including Republican Assemblywoman Mary Beth Walsh and Republican Sen. Jim Tedisco, as well as Joy’s opponent, Democratic Rep. Paul Tonko, stayed home and addressed supporters remotely rather than risk bringing people together.
Joy’s response to being called out wasn’t to admit the error, apologize and express concern for the people who might have been exposed to the virus at her event. It was to call the paper to whine about being mistreated, and then to go on Twitter with a childish rant falsely calling our reporter a liar and names like “shill” and “Cuomo Gestapo.” (Huh?)
The point here isn’t to just chastise this particular congressional candidate for this one incident, but to remind everyone in the public sector that they have a role to play in society that goes beyond simply performing the specific tasks related to their jobs.
Our public leaders have an obligation to set an informed example, to guide the citizens down the right path, to support government action designed to protect the citizens – not to thumb your nose at them.
That responsibility isn’t just limited to the coronavirus, but to all levels of personal and professional conduct.
We expect our public officials to set an example and to uphold a higher standard.
Those who are unwilling to do that should find other ways to spend their time.