– September 7, 2020
nancy pelosi

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi caused quite a stir to open up the month of September when it was reported that she visited a San Francisco hair salon at a time when such establishments were supposed to remain closed. Although the story has been confirmed and reported on by a variety of news outlets the origin of the commotion was sparked when

“In security footage obtained by Fox News, and timestamped Monday at 3:08 p.m. Pacific Time, the California powerhouse is seen walking through eSalon in San Francisco with wet hair, and without a mask over her mouth or nose.

The stylist doing her hair can be seen following her wearing a black face mask.

Salons in San Francisco had been closed since March and were only notified they could reopen on Sept. 1 for outdoor hairstyling services only.”

Fox News also noted in the same article that Speaker Pelosi, who can be seen maskless in the video, ordered that masks will be required in the House Chamber. 

According to a fact check by Snopes, Pelosi did indeed violate San Francisco ordinance which mandated that hair salons remain closed until September 1st to which they could commence their services outdoors. However, the Speaker of the House visited the salon on August 31st, at a time when all hair salons were to remain closed. Furthermore, indoor services like the type she received are still prohibited at this time. On top of that the San Francisco Department of Health states 

“You must wear a face covering when you are within 6 feet of people who don’t live with you. You will not be allowed to go into a business or public transportation if you are not wearing a face covering.”

In the video, Speaker Pelosi is seen walking around the salon with her face exposed while her stylist can be seen with a mask. 

Further Developments 

After the video of the Speaker surfaced the entire incident quickly became a political fiasco to which she was understandably attacked for performing activities that are not only illegal but extremely hypocritical. However, instead of issuing an apology and perhaps sympathizing with the struggles of business owners and customers suffering under the arbitrary boot of lockdowns, she went on the offensive. 

The San Francisco Chronicle writes 

“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.” 

According to ABC News

“A spokesperson for the San Francisco congresswoman said the business offered to cut Pelosi’s hair and told her they were allowed to have one customer at a time inside the Union Street business.

“The Speaker complied with the rules as presented to her by this establishment,” said spokesperson Drew Hammill.”

CBSN Bay Area quotes Pelosi when they write

“I take responsibility for trusting the word of a neighborhood salon that I’ve been to, over the years, many times,” said Pelosi. “And when they said we’re able to accommodate people one person at a time, and that we can set up a time, I trusted that. As it turns out, it was a set up. So I take responsibility for falling for a set up, and that’s all I’m going to say on that.”

Essentially Speaker Pelosi’s story is that the salon purposely deceived her in order to record the incident and use it for political purposes.

According to CBS News the owner of the salon, Erica Kious, responded with the following:

In an earlier interview with Fox News she said she rents salon chairs to stylists and learned about Pelosi’s appointment through the hairstylist on Sunday. She said she “can’t control” what her stylists do…

Kious said she has had her surveillance cameras for five years. “I mean, I didn’t go in there and turn cameras on as soon as she walked in to set her up,” she said.

“She’s been coming in for quite a while, and just to see her come in and especially not wearing the mask, that’s what really got to me, but this isn’t even political. I mean, she’s been coming in there. It’s the fact that she actually came in and didn’t have a mask on,” Kious said. “And I just thought about you know my staff and people not being able to work and make money and provide for their families, and if she’s in there comfortably without a mask and feeling safe, then why are we shut down? Why am I not able to have clients come in?”

In summary, the owner of the salon asserts that Pelosi has been a regular customer and she doesn’t exercise much discretion on who her stylists bring in. Kious also regularly rents out her salon chairs which is what Pelosi’s stylist was doing. Furthermore, there was not any sort of plotting as the security cameras that the footage originates from were there for years and anyone would be reasonably upset at Pelosi’s behavior. 

Further Complications 

One of the immediate questions one should raise when presented with this dilemma is why would the video footage end up with Fox News if the owner had no intention of setting up Pelosi? 

To that Kious explains 

“I don’t owe anyone an apology,” said Kious, who said she was on a plane when the visit occurred and shortly after landing saw the video of Pelosi passing through the salon without a mask. “Mrs. Pelosi owes the entire country an apology.

Kious said that the reason for releasing the video was that if Pelosi, a woman in a high-risk age group, feels comfortable coming into a San Francisco salon and can be responsible and cautious, other Americans should be able to do the same.”

According to Kious, she felt compelled to release the footage to start a conversation and call out Pelosi for her hypocrisy.

However, CBSN Bay Area reports the following 

“Through his lawyer, Jonathan Denardo says e-salon owner Erica Kious approved the appointment and during a conversation over the phone Denardo says Kious made several comments criticizing the House Speaker.

The stylist’s lawyer says Kious had been violating the health order for months before the House Speaker’s visit and says, “It appears Ms. Kious is furthering a set-up of speaker Pelosi for her own vain aspirations.”

This certainly complicates the story because although Kious was away when this was happening, she still acknowledged and approved Pelosi’s visit. Like many hair salon owners, she was conducting business under the table which is understandable. However, her knowledge of the deal still complicates things somewhat. 

It is worth noting, however, that Kious said she felt compelled to release the video when she saw Pelosi was not wearing her mask in the salon, which is not only a city ordinance but something Pelosi has been a vocal advocate of. Kious was willing to let Pelosi use the salon like she allegedly has for many other customers during the pandemic. However, after seeing that the Speaker was not wearing a mask, combined with her understandable frustration with the existing situation, she may have felt compelled to call out Pelosi. Either way, both parties are not showing any sign of relent on their position. 

The Fallout 

As with any hot political incident, Kious has been flooded with condemnation and support from opposing sides. Ms. Kious is quoted by CBS when she says

 “The hard part of all this is that I have been in that community for 12 years, and since this happened I have received nothing but hate text messages, death threats,” she said. “They’re going to burn my hair salon down, my Yelp page is just unbelievable with bad reviews.”

This is the sad reality that comes with partisan politics where people are so quick to attack a business owner who at the end of the day shined a light on hypocrisy. Regardless of whether or not the incident was a setup, Speaker Pelosi has been an advocate of mask-wearing and social distancing yet she was doing neither of these. There seems to be nothing wrong with getting hair appointments during the pandemic, especially if the salons are able to voluntarily take reasonable precautions. Maybe the rest of the country should be able to as well?

According to Mercury News, there is now

 “A GoFundMe campaign launched by former Nevada Republican Party Chairwoman Amy Tarkanian, Kious “is now being forced to shut down and relocate her business and family due to outrage and threats she’s receiving.” More than $100,000 had been pledged as of Thursday evening.”

In the same article they also quote the governor of South Dakota who said, 

“As a former female small business owner, I can only imagine how crushing these last few months have been,” South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem tweeted. “And now this!? Erika (sic), if you want to run your salon in a state that respects freedom and won’t shut you down, then South Dakota is open for you.”

Whether or not all of this actually started as a politically motivated setup has now been dwarfed by the national politicization of the incident. 

The Bigger Picture 

Regardless of whose story is right, this entire fiasco is representative of the appalling divisions between the rulers and the ruled during the Covid-19 pandemic. What we are seeing not only from Pelosi but leaders across society is utter hypocrisy, total detachment from reality, elitism to the highest order, and a disdain for the liberty of the governed. David Marcus writes in the New York Post

“Throughout the pandemic, we have seen case after case of the sternest, most domineering public officials openly flouting the very rules they require ordinary Americans to uphold — on pain of severe penalties.”

Another famous example of such behavior is when British professor Neil Ferguson, one of the architects of the lockdown strategy, on multiple occasions violated the stay at home orders he helped create to see his lover who was also married with a family.

Pelosi decided to take a nonchalant visit to the hair salon with her mask clearly seen dangling around her neck, which flies in the face of the narrative she and her allies have been pushing. She claims that she was not aware of the ordinances in her own city. Not only is that hard to believe but she has been a vocal proponent of such policies. At the very least some consistency would be appreciated. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to retrieve a sense of normalcy but while she’s at it, she should fight for the average American’s right to do the same.

The Beauty Federation stated

“Our entire industry was appalled at the hypocrisy and flaunting of lockdown orders displayed by Speaker Nancy Pelosi,” the group said in a statement. “How dare our rulers go about their lives, maskless and in open defiance of the rules they have imposed upon our state licensed beauty professionals!”

Freedom for me, but not for thee seems to be the recurring theme here. Businesses large and small are buckling under the weight of arbitrary restrictions. Everyday Americans have seen their jobs and their lives stripped at the stroke of a pen. America’s once proud and industrious spirit has been overshadowed by one of fear, insanity, and vitriol. Yet those who are responsible for all of this not only thrive but step on those who try to speak out. 

Ethan Yang

Ethan Yang

Ethan joined AIER in 2020 as an Editorial Assistant and is a graduate of Trinity College. He received a BA in Political Science alongside a minor in Legal Studies and Formal Organizations. He currently serves as Local Coordinator at Students for Liberty and the Director of the Mark Twain Center for the Study of Human Freedom at Trinity College. Prior to joining AIER, he interned at organizations such as the American Legislative Exchange Council, the Connecticut State Senate, and the Cause of Action Institute. Ethan is currently based in Washington D.C.

Get notified of new articles from Ethan Yang and AIER.