An Omaha-area restaurant server was fired after she shared a video of Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts hanging out maskless at the sports bar where she worked.
“Where’s your mask, Pete?” said 25-year-old Karina Montanez in the video she posted to Twitter on Election Day. “What are you doing, Pete? We’re in a pandemic, Pete.”
The video was taken during an election party for state Sen.-elect Rita Sanders, a Republican, according to the Lincoln Journal Star.
Montanez was working that night because another server had contracted COVID-19, and she’d picked up that person’s dinner shift, according to the Washington Post
Montanez updated her followers in a tweet Tuesday saying she’d since been fired from DJ’s Dugout, which has several locations across the Omaha metro area, over the social media post. Darwin Hanssen, the president of DJ’s Dugout, told the Lincoln Journal Star that she was terminated over the sports bar’s social media and cell phone policies.
Nonetheless, Montanez told the Washington Post that Ricketts’ lack of social distancing at her previous place of employment was a “slap in the face.”
“You’re supposed to be taking care of us and you’re out here acting like a celebrity, while people are fighting for their lives and are in hospitals dying right now,” Montanez told the Post.
This week, State Sen. Megan Hunt, a Democrat, also posted a photo of Ricketts from the same event, which showed the governor posing with 21 people—some of whom appear to be elderly. None are wearing masks.
“This you, @GovRicketts? On November 3?,” Hunt wrote in the Nov. 17 tweet.
A spokesperson for the governor said to local Fox affiliate KPTM that Ricketts only removed his mask temporarily for photos at the event, and while seated at the restaurant. Ricketts also wore a mask while entering and exiting the restaurant, and the state doesn’t require people to be wearing a mask while seated, the spokesperson told KPTM.
Ricketts, who entered quarantine last week after he was possibly exposed to COVID-19 at a small dinner gathering at his home, is one of several politicians that’s recently been caught with their mask down during a worsening pandemic that’s claimed more than 250,000 lives. California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, was recently photographed dining at a ritzy restaurant while maskless—although he called the move a “bad mistake,” according to the New York Times. Sen Dianne Feinstein, also a Democrat from California, was seen maskless in the Capitol this week, according to Fox News.
Ricketts, meanwhile, has resisted issuing a mask mandate in his state, despite a surge of COVID-19 infections, and evidence that masks protect both wearers and those around them, especially when combined with good hygiene and social distancing measures.
Physicians from the Omaha-based University of Nebraska Medical Center recently pleaded in a letter for “all Nebraskans to wear a mask anytime you leave your home, especially anytime you cannot socially distance from others.” The letter was signed by more than 1,700 doctors and nurses, according to KMTV, a local CBS affiliate.
Montanez, meanwhile, is jobless and figuring out how to care for her 4-year-old daughter, according to the Post. State Sen. Carol Blood, a Democrat, reached out to help her, according to the Star. While Montanez told VICE News in a message on Twitter that she's thankful to everyone who has sent support, she's now asking that people "spread the love elsewhere" rather than donate money.
And she hopes that people who saw her video don't take their anger out on her co-workers. “I do still have love for the people I left behind there, so please!! I dont want their mental health affected by this. THEY WERE NOT THE ONES WHO MADE THE CALL ON MY TERMINATION. That is all,” she wrote.