SACRAMENTO, California (AP) – California Governor Gavin Newsom said he chose to cheat his children or give them a Halloween treat instead of discussing climate change with world leaders in Scotland, explaining the decision to abruptly cancel his trip and then go out of the public eye for nearly two weeks, he was driven by the simple desire of a working parent to spend more time with his children.
Newsom’s comments, made Tuesday at the Monterey economic summit, followed increased media coverage and criticism from Republicans about his whereabouts and what he was doing. His last public event was on October 27, when he was vaccinated against the coronavirus, and two days later, his office issued a brief statement saying he was canceling his travel plans due to vague “family commitments.”
His staff did not answer questions about where he was or what he did most of the time. However, photos posted in Vogue over the weekend showed Newsom attending the wedding of Ivy Love Getty, the granddaughter of the late oil billionaire J. Paul Getty, whose family members were major sponsors of Newsom’s campaigns.
By Monday, Newsom’s absence had sparked rumors about his health, mostly among social media conservatives who rallied around the hashtag #wheresgavin. Newsom’s wife, Jennifer Sibel Newsom, added intrigue Sunday night with a deleted tweet urging people to “please stop hating and get life.”
But Newsom said Tuesday that his absence was nothing more than a chance to recharge with his family after a hectic three years in power, including an unprecedented pandemic, record bushfire destruction, drought, and a fight for his political life in just a second. elections of the governor recall in the history of the state. Newsom reflected the recall in September and then spent the next several weeks reviewing hundreds of bills passed by the Legislature.
Climate change is the main concern of Newsom, who many believe will one day run for president. Attending the conference would give him the opportunity to advertise his climate change initiatives, which include banning the sale of new gas cars and trucks by 2035, as well as raise his profile among world leaders.
But as the trip approached, his children took the initiative.
“I’ve been on this damn treadmill, we’ve gone from crisis to crisis,” Newsom said. “The kids literally intervened. They said they couldn’t believe I would miss Halloween. “
Newsom said that for his children aged 5 to 12, skipping Halloween is worse than Christmas. “I didn’t have a damn choice; I had to cancel that trip, ”he said.
Newsom’s comments drew audience applause and praise from fellow Democrats in the state legislature, many of whom accused the governor’s political opponents and the media of blowing the story to the bone.
Assemblyman Ash Kalra tweeted that if Newsom attended the conference, he would be criticized “for traveling overseas instead of staying at home and caring for the state.”
“He just can’t win,” Kalra said.
Wesley Hussey, professor of political science at Sacramento State University, said Newsom could have prevented much of the noise if he had simply said in the beginning why he was not attending the conference and backed off from public speaking.
“I think this is an example of where the governor and his press staff need to be aware of social media and distortion and always stay ahead of everyone else,” he said. “I think we should know what the governor is up to and give the governor a seat when he needs time with his family. And I think they can go together. “
Neither the governor nor his representatives said why they did not provide details of Newsom’s whereabouts until this week. Newsom’s office said Monday that the governor was working at the Capitol on “pressing issues including COVID-19 vaccines for children, boosters, ports, the upcoming state budget, and California’s ongoing economic recovery.”
Newsom usually appears in public several times each week. He enjoys his role as the leader of the most populous state, which, if it were a separate country, would have the fifth largest economy in the world. This is what made his absence after abruptly leaving the climate conference so curious.
“The absence of a governor always causes public concern. This is especially true for a governor claiming the sole power to control people’s lives through a “state of emergency,” Republican MP Kevin Keely, who ran for governor in the rerun, tweeted. Keely has repeatedly tried and failed to convince his colleagues in the Democratic-controlled state legislature to limit Newsom’s emergency powers during the pandemic.
Newsom’s allies quickly came to his defense on social media. MP Lorena Gonzalez, a San Diego Democrat, tweeted that Newsom “is the husband and father of four young children who have worked almost every day during this pandemic and have been rewarded by facing ridiculous party recall elections. I don’t care what he does with his family, he deserves a vacation. ”
When he showed up on Tuesday, Newsom added details of his week out of the limelight. He went to his kids’ soccer tournament and treated them to a treat, quickly obtaining a pirate costume to join them. He said he brought his children to the Capitol last week for the first time in a tourist tradition, such as taking a selfie with a statue of a grizzly bear – the animal depicted on the state flag – outside the governor’s office.
The children also received coloring books, which are regularly distributed from the office of the interim Senate president.
“This was probably the most productive week I’ve had since I was governor,” Newsom said.
Associated Press reporter Kathleen Ronane from Sacramento contributed.