US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said her visit to a San Francisco hair salon in breach of coronavirus rules was a “setup”.
“I take responsibility for trusting the word of a neighbourhood salon,” the top Democrat told reporters on Wednesday. “It turns out it was a setup.”
She visited the eSalon SF on 31 August, despite a ban on such services indoors in the Californian city.
Mrs Pelosi was also pictured in the salon without a mask over her face.
The California lawmaker has often criticised President Donald Trump for refusing to wear a mask.
“I take responsibility for trusting the word of a neighbourhood salon that I’ve been to over the years many times,” Mrs Pelosi said in a testy press conference in San Francisco when asked about the incident.
She said eSalon SF had told her they could accommodate one guest at a time.
“I trusted that – as it turns out it was a setup,” Mrs Pelosi said. “So I take responsibility for falling for a setup and that’s all I’m going to say on that.”
Mrs Pelosi has herself previously cited US Centers for Disease Control guidelines recommending that Americans wear face masks in public, especially when physical distancing measures are difficult.
“I think this salon owes me an apology for setting up,” she added.
“We have to get our country moving again and I will not let this subject take away from the fact that we have 185,000 plus people who have died from this virus.”
Mrs Pelosi was seen on security camera footage, obtained by Fox News, wearing a face mask around her neck rather than over her mouth and nose.
During the pandemic, she has always worn masks in public and has chastised Republicans for not listening to US health agency guidance.
Mr Trump weighed in on Twitter, saying Mrs Pelosi was “being decimated for having a beauty parlour opened when all others are closed and for not wearing a mask – despite constantly lecturing everyone else”.
A spokesman for the speaker earlier issued a statement saying the business told Mrs Pelosi they were allowed to have one customer inside at a time.
The salon’s owner, Erica Kious, told Fox News a stylist informed her Mrs Pelosi wanted to come in for a wash and blow dry.
“It was a slap in the face that she went in, you know, that she feels that she can just go and get her stuff done while no-one else can go in, and I can’t work.”
San Francisco’s mayor allowed salons to offer services outdoors from 1 September.
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