Rep. Bill Keating (D-MA) confirmed that he confronted a maskless National Guard member, as reported by Breitbart News, but denied that it led to the relocation of National Guard members to a parking garage.
Breitbart News reported an incident between Keating and a National Guard member at a Dunkin’ Donuts cafe in a Capitol grounds building on Thursday morning, where Keating saw a maskless member of the National Guard and commented out loud that masks were required to be worn at all times in a federal building.
The National Guard member allegedly responded, “I appreciate my freedom,” according to two sources.
Hours later, thousands of National Guard members were reportedly sent from the Capitol building grounds to a parking garage for their rest periods, and told they could not hang out in cafe areas as they had previously done.
Keating, in a tweet, called Breitbart News’s story “baseless” but confirmed that he confronted National Guardsmen and said it had nothing to do with the relocation — which has prompted widespread anger on Capitol Hill.
Yesterday, I was with a large number of people in a coffee shop in the House, some of whom weren’t wearing masks. I commented – to no one in particular – that this has the ingredients of a super-spreader event and we should all keep our masks on. A member of the National Guard chose to loudly refuse. That is the totality of what took place.
Leave it to Breitbart to concoct such a baseless story that’s been directly refuted by the National Guard. pic.twitter.com/op3JFAZgjP
— Congressman Bill Keating (@USRepKeating) January 23, 2021
He also tweeted out a press release from the Massachusetts National Guard that said Keating did not banish National Guardsmen to a parking garage. It said, “Capitol building officials directed those National Guard Soldiers assigned to the Senate portion of the Capitol building, to move their break area to a parking garage due to the Senate being in session.”
“The relocation of National Guardsmen within the U.S. Capitol building grounds had nothing to do with Congressman Keating reminding a Soldier of the requirement to wear their mask,” it said.
The press release also pushed back on news reports and photos of soldiers resting on the ground, saying that those reports failed to mention the troops were “on a break, resting between shifts.”
The reports and social media photos of soldiers laying on the ground in a parking garage have sparked widespread anger from Democrats and Republicans alike on Capitol Hill, who have vowed to get to the bottom of what exactly happened.
According to the Washington Post, a National Guard spokesman said the request was made by Capitol Police, but Capitol Police denied they made the request.
The National Guard released a statement on Friday that said that both the National Guard and Capitol Police were “united in the common goal to protect the U.S. Capitol and the Congress during this time.”
It added, “As with any large security operation, coordination and flexibility are required for all involved.” It went on:
The USCP and the National Guard have coordinated their efforts to ensure that National Guardsmen and women are stationed throughout the Capitol Complex are in appropriate spaces within Congressional buildings, including the U.S. Capitol, where they may take on-duty breaks. Off-duty troops are being housed in hotel rooms or other comfortable accommodations.
“The National Guard appreciates the continuous support of Congressional members who expressed concern for our National Guard men and women. The USCP is also grateful for the support of the Congress concerning the wellbeing of the women and men of the Department,” it said.