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California Gov. Gavin Newsom gives a coronavirus update from Mustards Grill in Napa, Calif., on May 18, 2020. (AP/Pedroncelli) California Gov. Gavin Newsom gives a coronavirus update from Mustards Grill in Napa, Calif., on May 18, 2020. (AP/Pedroncelli)

California Gov. Gavin Newsom gives a coronavirus update from Mustards Grill in Napa, Calif., on May 18, 2020. (AP/Pedroncelli)

Bill McCarthy
By Bill McCarthy May 22, 2020

No, California Gov. Gavin Newsom hasn’t been vacationing in Montana

If Your Time is short

  • Newsom has not been vacationing in Stevensville in recent weeks, his office said. The Montana governor’s office and Stevensville mayor said the same thing.

As states begin to reopen in the face of the coronavirus, social media users are falsely claiming California Gov. Gavin Newsom defied his own stay-at-home order to vacation in Montana.

"While California is dying, not because of COVID, but because of the Newsom/Democrat lockdown, I hear Gavin is vacationing in Stevensville, MT!" said a May 18 Facebook post, adding that locals should "tape confirmation and share their videos."

RELATED: The false TikTok claim that high unemployment is killing more people than the coronavirus

The post accused Newsom of being "a criminal" and included an image that showed the governor with his arm raised alongside the words: "You stay while I vacation." 

It was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.) According to the Associated Press, social media users have been claiming Newsom fled to Montana for weeks.

The content of the post is wrong. For starters, COVID-19 has killed thousands of Californians — more than 3,600 as of May 22, according to Johns Hopkins University. More to the point, Newsom is not on vacation in Montana, nor has he been there in recent weeks.

"The governor and his family have been in California for the duration of the pandemic," said Jesse Melgar, Newsom’s press secretary.

Newsom’s whereabouts

Newsom has provided live updates about the state of the coronavirus in California throughout May, broadcasting them to his YouTube channel and social media pages. On May 18, he gave a press conference from Mustards Grill, a restaurant in Napa, California.

Montana officials said they’re not aware of any recent trips Newsom has made to their state.

"Gov. Newsom was not in Montana to our knowledge," said Erin Loranger, press secretary for Montana Gov. Steve Bullock.

"We can confirm that Gov. Newsom has not been in Stevensville," added Stevensville Mayor Brandon Dewey.

We searched Google and the Nexis news database and found no credible reports to indicate that Newsom has been to Montana in recent weeks. Other fact-checkers and local news outlets also concluded that posts saying Newsom went there were wrong.

California law dictates that Newsom must be within the state’s borders to have the powers of his office, according to the Los Angeles Times. When Newsom has left California in the past, he has typically transferred the governor’s duties to Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis.

"When the governor leaves the state, he is required to give notice, and the lieutenant governor serves as acting governor in his absence," said Katie Hanzlik, a spokesperson for Kounalakis.

But Kounalakis’ office hasn’t received notice that Newsom would be out of California since early February, Hanzlik said. She shared with PolitiFact a pair of press releases, from Feb. 7 and Feb 11, that said Newsom "has left the state" and "has returned to the state."  

On Feb. 10, Newsom appeared as a guest on ABC’s "The View," which is filmed in New York.

The parents of Newsom’s wife, filmmaker and actress Jennifer Siebel Newsom, do own a ranch near Stevensville. The two got married there in 2008, when Newsom was mayor of San Francisco, according to an Associated Press report from the time.  

Newsom issued a stay-at-home order on March 19, and he recently loosened the criteria that counties must meet in order to begin easing some restrictions.

Our ruling

A Facebook post said, "While California is dying … Gavin (Newsom) is vacationing in Stevensville, MT!"

There is no evidence of this. Newsom’s office said he has not been vacationing in Stevensville, and so did the lieutenant governor’s office, the Montana governor’s office and the Stevensville mayor. Newsom gave a live press conference from a California restaurant on May 18, the day the post went up.

We rate this post False.

Our Sources

Facebook posts, May 18, 2020

The Associated Press, "California governor did not violate his stay-at-home order," May 21, 2020

Reuters, "False claim: California Governor Newsom went to Montana during Stay at Home order," May 20, 2020, "California Governor Gavin Newsom is not in Montana," May 18, 2020

KCRA3, "Did Newsom leave California over the weekend? No, officials say," May 18, 2020

The Los Angeles Times, "Newsom eases guidelines for areas to reopen; Changes mean more counties can relax restrictions, though Los Angeles remains state's hot spot," May 18, 2020

California Gov. Gavin Newsom on YouTube, "California COVID-19 Update: May 18, 2020," May 18, 2020

The Los Angeles Times, "California Gov. Gavin Newsom is on vacation. His office is staying quiet on his plans," April 3, 2019

The Los Angeles Times, "Who's governor of California? This week, it's not Jerry Brown," July 25, 2016

The Los Angeles Times, "Newsom marries Jennifer Siebel," July 27, 2008

Email interview with Jesse Melgar, press secretary for California Gov. Gavin Newsom, May 22, 2020

Email interview with Katie Hanzlik, spokesperson for California Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis, May 22, 2020

Email interview with Brandon Dewey, mayor of Stevensville, Montana, May 22, 2020

Email interview with Erin Loranger, press secretary for Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, May 22, 2020

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No, California Gov. Gavin Newsom hasn’t been vacationing in Montana

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