Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has invoked diplomatic immunity, the international agreement that is used to protect ambassadors from the consequences of their misdeeds, to invite more than 1,000 people to State Department holiday parties at a time when the coronavirus is killing Americans at a record rate.
Last week 900 people received invitations to the Dec. 15 “Diplomacy at Home for the Holidays” event, which will take place in the State Department’s grand Benjamin Franklin room. Those invitations went out the very same week that department leadership sent a notice to all employees urging them change any “non-mission critical events” to virtual events, citing the explosion of COVID-19 cases that has occurred in the wake of Thanksgiving.
Columbia University infectious disease expert Ian Lipkin said to The Washington Post, which obtained a copy of the Dec. 15 party invitation, “I’m flabbergasted. An indoor event of this kind is dangerous on so many levels.”
Lipkin cited a number of dangers: the large number of guests, consumption of food and beverages, which requires unmasking, the presence of alcohol and the presence of music and other ambient noise, which causes people to speak louder than normal, thus increasing the likelihood of droplet emissions.
A spokesperson for the State Department told The Post, “We plan to fully enforce social distancing measures at this reception, and face coverings are mandatory for admittance.” When asked how he could expect attendees to keep masks on during the reception he did not offer a response. He also couldn’t explain how social distancing could be enforced in such a large gathering.
The Dec. 15 event is not the only holiday gathering that Pompeo and his social-climbing wife, Susan, will be hosting. They’re planning two other diplomatic receptions that same week. All of those have the potential to far eclipse the super-spreader nature of the White House event for Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation to the Supreme Court.
And then there’s this: Washington, D.C., coronavirus countermeasures currently ban indoor gatherings of more than 10 people. In that regard, too, Pompeo clearly feels entitled to invoke his diplomatic immunity.
“It’s unfair, it’s unethical and it flies in the face of what we need to do to protect each other,” Lipkin told The Post.