Sam Kass, former White House chef and adviser to first lady Michelle Obama, voiced his anger with the Trump administration’s handling of coronavirus as it relates to the White House residence staff.
In a four-minute Instagram video posted earlier Wednesday, Kass expressed his outrage following reports residence staff have been put in danger.
“We’re starting to actually learn that there’s been a big cover up in there. There’s been no transparency … and it’s putting real lives at risk,” Kass told CNN in an interview Wednesday afternoon.
After a report from the New York Times that two housekeeping staffers had tested positive and were asked to use discretion, Kass raised the possibility that other potential close contacts were not informed internally.
“There were gaps in communication where people had no idea what was going on, and a lack of communication,” he said.
In his opinion, both President Trump and first lady Melania Trump, who were both diagnosed with Covid-19 last week, should not be at the White House around residence staff “unequipped” to deal with infectious disease, and, rather, in the care of trained medical professionals.
Kass outlined the potential for cross-contamination – even though the East Wing instituted a mask policy early in the pandemic, the West Wing did not. And residence staff are frequently around West Wing staff, setting up and breaking down events in the East Room and Rose Garden, among others. He said the dueling mask policies showed the administration’s “incompetence and hypocrisy.”
“It means they knew they should be in masks. That’s the policy in their home. They knew people should be testing frequently, if not daily. They let the rest of their staff be exposed without any rules, and how dare they,” he said.
Many of the workspaces used by residence staff are extremely small and have a potential for spread, including the pastry shop, which Kass said is “like a walk-in closet,” and “tiny little offices underground” including the engineers’ room, the carpentry shop, and the electricians’ office.
Kass said he was “horrified” by images of the President walking into the residence from the Truman Balcony without a mask after he returned from the hospital.
“I just couldn’t imagine being so careless with the lives of these people who are there to serve and take care of you. It was so unrecognizable for everything I know to be true about that place, the spirit, the camaraderie, the care that people take for each other. I just couldn’t believe my eyes,” he said.
He said he felt compelled to speak out because residence staff, with a long history of discretion, would not speak for themselves.
“There’s a deep tradition in the residence of being credibly discreet and never speaking out, and I know they’re not going to,” he said. “The privacy of the first family, it’s tantamount. They would never violate that trust, even when their own lives are at risk.”