SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) – With pressure mounting following a nearly two-week absence from public life, California Gov. Gavin Newsom planned to speak at an economic conference on Tuesday – his first public appearance since abruptly canceling a trip to an international climate conference for unspecified family obligations.
Newsom has been out of public sight since receiving a coronavirus vaccine booster shot on Oct. 27. Two days later he canceled a trip to the United Nations‘ climate conference in Scotland. Newsom, who is married with four children between the ages of 5 and 12, cited “family obligations” as the reason.
But Newsom appears to be returning to his normal routine this week. After speaking at the economic conference on Tuesday, he’s scheduled to visit a coronavirus vaccine clinic in Los Angeles on Wednesday - his first event taking questions from reporters.
Newsom often holds several or more public events a week and his absence and his office’s prolonged silence about what he was doing prompted speculation about his health, mostly from conservative political opponents on social media who rallied around the hashtag #wheresgavin.
Photos over the weekend published in Vogue showed Newsom at the wedding of Ivy Love Getty, a model and great-granddaughter of billionaire oil tycoon J. Paul Getty. The Getty and Newsom families have long been friends, with Newsom’s father once managing the Getty family trust.
Gordon Getty, the son of J. Paul Getty, helped finance Newsom’s entrance into the wine and hospitality business in the early 1990s. Getty family members have been major donors to Newsom’s campaigns.
Newsom’s wife, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, added to the intrigue on Sunday night with a tweet telling people to “please stop hating and get a life.” The tweet, which was quickly deleted but survives in screenshots posted online, said in part: “When someone cancels something, maybe they’re just in the office working; maybe in their free time they’re at home with their family, at their kids’ sports matches, or dining out with their wife.”
On Monday, Newsom spokesman Daniel Lopez confirmed the governor and his wife attended the Getty wedding ceremony but did not attend the reception, though it’s unclear why they went to one and not the other. Lopez added Newsom had not taken time off after canceling his trip, saying Newsom “worked in the Capitol with staff on urgent issues including COVID-19 vaccines for kids, boosters, ports, the forthcoming state budget and California’s continued economic recovery.”
Still, Republicans on Monday sought to turn Newsom’s absence from public events into a political issue.
“A governor’s absence is always a matter of public concern. That’s especially true for a governor claiming sole authority to control people’s lives through a ‘State of Emergency,’” tweeted Republican Assemblyman Kevin Kiley, who ran for governor in September’s failed recall election targeting Newsom. Kiley has repeatedly tried and failed to convince his colleagues in the Democratic-controlled state Legislature to limit Newsom’s emergency powers during the pandemic.
Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez was among Democrats who defended Newsom. She tweeted: “Let’s be honest @GavinNewsom is a husband & a father of 4 young children who worked his butt off nearly every day during this pandemic & was rewarded by facing a ridiculous partisan recall election. I don’t care what he’s taking time to do with his family, he deserves time off.”
Democratic state Sen. John Laird said he thinks media attention on Newsom’s absence is “a little overblown” because his administration still has had an active presence at the U.N. conference. Laird spoke to reporters virtually on Monday alongside a handful of other state senators who are in Scotland for the meeting.
“California’s been flying the flag quite admirably and significantly from most parts of the administration that are related to climate,” Laird said.
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