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Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., speaks during a House Judiciary subcommittee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington on July 29, 2020. (AP/Jennings) Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., speaks during a House Judiciary subcommittee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington on July 29, 2020. (AP/Jennings)

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., speaks during a House Judiciary subcommittee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington on July 29, 2020. (AP/Jennings)

Bill McCarthy
By Bill McCarthy January 14, 2021

Image of Pramila Jayapal without mask is out of context

If Your Time is short

  • A screenshot from a video captured inside the House chambers during the U.S. Capitol mob shows Rep. Pramila Jayapal without a mask. 

  • The screenshot is missing critical context: Capitol police had instructed Jayapal and other lawmakers to take off their masks in order to prepare to put on gas masks.

  • Jayapal tested positive for COVID-19 days after the Capitol riot. She blamed Republican lawmakers who had refused to wear masks in a secured indoor location that day.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., blamed her Republican colleagues after she and two other House Democrats tested positive for COVID-19 in the days following the U.S. Capitol mob, which forced lawmakers into close quarters as they took shelter from the violence.

"I just received a positive COVID-19 test result after being locked down in a secured room at the Capitol where several Republicans not only cruelly refused to wear a mask but recklessly mocked colleagues and staff who offered them one," Jayapal wrote in a Jan. 12 tweet.

Several Republican lawmakers, including Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, who has supported the baseless QAnon conspiracy theory, were seen on video refusing to wear masks while members of both chambers waited out the siege from the secured room.

But some social media users say photo and video evidence shows that Jayapal also didn’t wear a mask as the rioters breached the building and halted congressional proceedings.

"There’s pictures and videos of (Jayapal) not wearing a mask that day," says one tweet reposted on Jan. 12 to Facebook, which shows an image of Jayapal from the day of the riot.

Posts sharing the same photograph on Facebook and other platforms were flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.) 

The image — a screenshot from a longer video taken as the mob moved inside the Capitol — purports to show Jayapal maskless in the balcony of the House chambers.

But the image is missing context. Jayapal said in a subsequent tweet and later in a Jan. 13 interview on ABC’s "The View" that she had taken off her face mask to put on a gas mask.

Featured Fact-check

"We were then under siege," Jayapal said, explaining that she was trapped in the gallery with about 12 other lawmakers. "The Capitol police told us at that point to get off of our chairs, to get on the floor, to take off our masks, and to actually be ready to put on our gas masks. So if you look at those pictures, I am holding in my right hand a gas mask."

"We were specifically told to take off our masks, because you can’t breathe within the gas mask if you have the other mask on," she continued. "So all of us had been wearing masks. We took off our masks. We held our gas masks. And we were down on the floor."

The full video footage from which the photograph was captured supports Jayapal’s explanation. As Snopes reported, the video shows Jayapal with her gas mask in hand. The video shows another person, seated on the floor a row above Jayapal, with the gas mask already on.

"You can see the gas mask in her right hand in the photo," said Jayapal spokesperson Chris Evans. Evans said Jayapal tested negative for COVID-19 on Jan. 5, a day before the Capitol siege.

Jayapal criticized Republicans for refusing masks while lawmakers were "locked down in a secured room at the Capitol." The out-of-context photograph shows Jayapal in the House chambers, before she had been ushered to that secured location.

Our ruling

A Facebook post says a video screenshot shows that Jayapal was not wearing a mask in Congress during the Capitol mob. 

The post is missing critical context: Jayapal and other lawmakers taking shelter in the balcony of the House chambers were instructed to take off their masks and prepare to put on gas masks.

We rate this post Mostly False.

Our Sources

Facebook post, Jan. 12, 2021

Snopes, "Did Rep. Pramila Jayapal Go Maskless in Congress?," Jan. 13, 2021

The View on Twitter, Jan. 13, 2021

The View on YouTube, "Rep. Pramila Jayapal Predicted Capital Hill Lockdown Would Be Superspreader Event | The View," Jan. 13, 2021

Pramila Jayapal on Twitter, Jan. 12, 2021

Pramila Jayapal on Twitter, Jan. 12, 2021

The Washington Post, "The lockdown room was a safe space for lawmakers under siege. Now some say maskless Republicans made it a coronavirus hot spot," Jan. 12, 2021

Pramila Jayapal, "Jayapal Tests Positive for COVID-19 Following Lockdown at Capitol With Republican Lawmakers Who Cruelly and Selfishly Refused to Wear Masks," Jan. 11, 2021

Punchbowl News on YouTube, "Punchbowl Midday: January 8, 2021," Jan. 8, 2021

Syracuse.com on YouTube, "Raw video shows stand-off at U.S. Capitol with pro-Trump mob," Jan. 6, 2021

Email interview with Chris Evans, communications director for Rep. Pramila Jayapal, Jan. 11, 2021

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More by Bill McCarthy

Image of Pramila Jayapal without mask is out of context

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