Gov. Gavin Newsom’s extravagant lunch out at one of California wine country’s most exclusive fine-dining establishments has drawn a storm of criticism from both sides of the political aisle -- and it could wind up costing him more than just the steep price tag.
“He’s the one telling people to change their Thanksgiving plans -- yet he himself is gathering privately at an expensive restaurant that many Californians can’t afford,” Republican State Assemblyman James Gallagher told Fox News Wednesday night.
The French Laundry, a restaurant offering tastings that begin at $350 a plate, hosted Newsom, his wife, and others for a boujie birthday brunch honoring Jason Kinney, a lobbyist and friend of the governor.
Also in attendance? The CEO of the California Medical Association – who, like Newsom, should know a thing or two about that state’s COVID-19 guidelines – and that organization’s top lobbyist.
Newsom recently urged Golden State residents to pop their masks on between bites while eating out. But a diner at another table photographed him at the swanky meal without a mask, then sent the pictures to Fox LA.
The governor has also been telling Californians to avoid social gatherings with people from outside their immediate households. He has also apologized and said he needs “to preach and practice, not just preach.”
Gallagher, who successfully sued Newsom for overstepping his gubernatorial authority earlier this month by ordering counties to mail all eligible voters mail-in ballots, accused Newsom of attempting a short-lived cover-up. In his initial apology, Newsom said the meal had been outdoors.
But then photos emerged. They showed the table was enclosed on at least three sides. A spokesman for the governor’s office declined to comment on the room’s layout, but witnesses told Fox LA that a sliding door was eventually closed, sealing the room.
Gallagher called on the governor to set a better example.
“Most of our cases are coming from private gatherings – weddings, family gatherings, celebrations,” he said. “It’s hard to force a free society to stop people from gathering. As we’ve seen from the governor, even he himself has a hard time avoiding private gatherings.”
“I’m a lawyer who has sued the governor, but I’m still following the rules, while fighting them,” Dhillon told Fox News Wednesday night. “Not just blowing them off like the governor is doing.”
Antoinette, the ill-fated queen of France, has become synonymous with the decadence of the French monarchy during the pre-revolutionary era. According to legend, (despite historians saying otherwise) she responded “let them eat cake” after being informed that her starving subjects had no bread.
“Eating with a bunch of lobbyists at an expensive restaurant, this is at the same time that you’ve put half of California out of work,” Dhillon said. “Add up drinks and appetizers -- their meal per person was more than the monthly unemployment check.”
State Sen. Shannon Grove, head of the Republican Caucus in her chamber, turned to Twitter with a “Pop Quiz.”
“In California, $350 is equal to: (a) one week’s unemployment check for millions of California workers (b) the cost of Gavin Newsom’s dinner at Napa’s French Laundry restaurant or (c) both of the above,” she wrote.
Los Angeles County Health Director Barbara Ferrer called Newsom’s decision to attend the dinner “a big mistake” that she trusts won’t happen again, according to the Associated Press.
“In the future, when critics of lobbyists make their case, this dinner will be Exhibit A,” Claremont McKenna College politics professor Jack Pitney told the Associated Press.
Fox News’ Jordan Early, James Rogers and the Associated Press contributed to this report.