Nancy Pelosi calls salon visit a ‘setup,’ refuses to apologize
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declined to apologize Wednesday for her visit to a San Francisco hair salon that was supposed to be closed under the city’s coronavirus pandemic rules, and suggested the business had tricked her.
Pelosi said she took responsibility for falling for the “setup” to have her hair done inside the salon Monday. But the San Francisco Democrat said that if anyone owes an apology, it’s the salon.
“I think that this salon owes me an apology, for setting me up,” she said at an event about school reopenings in San Francisco’s Noe Valley.
Pelosi’s visit to the salon set off a firestorm when Fox News posted security footage of it Tuesday. Her visit happened one day before salons in the city were allowed to open for business, but only outdoors.House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited an indoor hair salon for service, but her office claims she didn’t know she did anything wrong.Video: KTVU
The state began allowing salons and barbershops to reopen indoor service Monday, after having barred it for most of the pandemic. But individual counties can keep closures in place. In the Bay Area, San Francisco and Alameda counties are not allowing salons to have customers indoors.
Pelosi indicated that e Salon, the Cow Hollow business where she had her hair done Monday, had given her an incorrect version of the rules.
“I take responsibility for trusting the word of the neighborhood salon that I’ve been to over the years many times, and when they said, ‘We’re able to accommodate people one person at a time.’ I trusted that,” the speaker said during a combative exchange with reporters in the empty schoolyard of Mission Education Center Elementary School.
A lawyer for the stylist who did Pelosi’s hair said in a letter released Wednesday evening the salon’s owner had reopened her business in April, in violation of various public health orders. The letter also charged that the owner objected to Pelosi’s salon visit after the fact because of her “political leanings.”
The salon owner, Erica Kious, did not respond to requests for comment.
Pelosi’s comments Wednesday acknowledged she was not aware of local rules prohibiting such indoor treatments. There is no provision in San Francisco for customers to get their hair done indoors one at a time.
The speaker wasn’t asked Wednesday why she didn’t know the city’s rules. Pelosi splits her time between her home in San Francisco and her work in Washington, D.C.
Her response came after conservative critics jumped on Pelosi for appearing hypocritical in supporting restrictions on businesses and other aspects of public life to quell the pandemic, while engaging in a locally banned activity herself.
Republican National Committee spokeswoman Liz Harrington said there have been instances of salon owners who have opened their business against local laws being jailed. California has not prosecuted business owners for violating pandemic rules, but a salon owner was briefly jailed in Texas for defying court orders to close up shop.
“You can’t get your hair done, eat inside at a restaurant, travel, attend a funeral, or protest without mandatory quarantining. But Democrats can,” Harrington wrote in an email. “This isn’t about health or science. It’s about power. Democrats want to rule your life. But don’t expect their rules to apply to them.”
- EDITORIALSCHRONICLE EDITORIAL BOARDEditorial: Pelosi’s salon visit was not a good look for the…
- POLITICSBY TAL KOPANNancy Pelosi got indoor hair care at SF salon, report says
- POLITICSBY TAL KOPANPelosi’s advice to Biden: Skip debates with Trump
- POLITICSBY JOHN WILDERMUTHPelosi keeps up post office pressure
- BIZ & TECHBY RUSTY SIMMONSSan Francisco stands nearly alone as Bay Area salons reopen…
- POLITICSBY TAL KOPAN AND RACHEL SWANNancy Pelosi calls salon visit a ‘setup,’ refuses to…
Kious earlier told Fox that she had been unable to prevent Pelosi’s visit. She said an independent stylist who rents a chair in her establishment was the one who hosted Pelosi. Kious said she received a text message Sunday that the speaker would be coming in.
A lawyer for cosmetologist Jonathan DeNardo said his client got advance approval from Kious to serve Pelosi two days before her appointment on Monday.
“Ms. Kious took special interest in the appointment during this telephone call, wherein she made several vitriolic and incendiary comments about Speaker Pelosi and her purported responsibility for temporarily suspending operations of Ms. Kious’ business,” said the letter from attorney Matthew Soleimanpour, who is based in La Jolla.
The letter added that Gov. Gavin Newsom and Mayor London Breed were actually responsible for the shelter-in-place restrictions.
Kious has not responded to phone messages left by The Chronicle, including after Pelosi accused the salon of engaging in a “setup.”
Pelosi’s spokesman said Wednesday that she had been having her regular stylist do her hair at her home during the pandemic, but that person wasn’t available Monday. So she arranged to have her hair styled at eSalon after the shop told her it was OK, he said.
At the center of negotiations over coronavirus relief in Congress, Pelosi has been a vocal proponent of wearing masks and following scientific advice. She has sharply criticized President Trump and other Republicans for downplaying the need for masks and proper social distancing practices.
The short clip from Pelosi’s salon treatment that Fox released shows the speaker, with wet hair and wearing a robe, walking through the establishment with a mask around her neck.
Asked Wednesday why she wasn’t wearing a mask at the time, Pelosi said she had just had her hair washed.
“I don’t wear a mask when I’m washing my hair. Do you wear a mask when you’re washing your hair? I always wear a mask,” she said.
Masks and business closures have been at the center of political and culture wars amid the pandemic.
In Washington, some Republicans have resisted wearing masks in the Capitol building, despite requests from leadership that they do so. After Texas GOP Rep. Louie Gohmert tested positive and reports of Republicans’ staffers being forced to work mask-less emerged in the media, Pelosi ordered mask-wearing in all House office buildings and on the House side of the Capitol.
Trump tweeted Wednesday that “Crazy Nancy Pelosi is being decimated for having a beauty parlor opened, when all others are closed, and for not wearing a Mask – despite constantly lecturing everyone else. We will almost certainly take back the House, and send Nancy packing!”
Jessica Levinson, a professor at Loyola Law School, said she was baffled by Pelosi’s refusal to apologize. She said the optics of the salon visit fall “somewhere between bad and horrendous,” and play into conservative stereotypes of Pelosi as an out-of-touch liberal elite who doesn’t adhere to the standards she touts for everyone else.
“She would have done better having one of her grandkids do her hair, having it look terrible on TV, and then it sends this message of, ‘I’m in it with you,’” Levinson said.
Asked about the controversy at a separate news conference, Mayor London Breed said the country had more important things to worry about than whether Pelosi had engaged in a violation of city rules.
“We have our speaker working day and night against the challenges we have at the White House,” Breed said. “It’s unfortunate this conversation has blown up in the way it has and distracted us from the real issue.”
Chronicle staff writer Aidin Vaziri contributed to this report.Tal Kopan and Rachel Swan are San Francisco Chronicle staff writers. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com Twitter: @talkopan, @rachelswan