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On Nov. 15, 2012, the freshman class of the 113th Congress stood on the steps of the U.S. Capitol to take a photograph. Nine years later, in November 2021, this picture was recirculated on social media along with anti-government and anti-mask messages as social media users claimed that the politicians were flouting the rules that had been put in place to slow the spread of disease during the COVID-19 pandemic:
This picture does not show politicians failing to wear face masks during the COVID-19 pandemic because it was taken in 2012, years before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and years before masks and social distancing were encouraged.
The photograph can be found on an archived page of House.gov where it is presented with the following text:
The 113th Congress convened on January 3, 2013, welcoming 81 new Members to the U.S. House of Representatives.
This is the first Congress elected from Districts that were reapportioned according to the 2010 census. It brings Americans from all walks of life to the House, including farmers, business owners, military veterans, and academics.
Members of the House of Representatives are elected to two-year terms. Each Member must be a seven-year citizen of the United States, live in the state he or she represents, and be at least 25 years old.
While this meme uses a severely outdated picture to mislead people into thinking that lawmakers have adapted a “rules for thee, not for me” attitude, that generally hasn’t been the case. Masks are still widely used on Capitol Hill, and a number of lawmakers have been fined for violating these rules.
113th Congress · House.Gov. 8 Jan. 2013, https://web.archive.org/web/20130108205230/https://www.house.gov/content/features/20130103/.
Diaz, Jaclyn. “Masks Will Return To The U.S. House And White House After The CDC Changes Guidance.” NPR, 28 July 2021. NPR, https://www.npr.org/2021/07/28/1021544722/masks-to-return-to-the-u-s-house-and-white-house-after-the-cdc-changes-guidance.
Fandos, Nicholas, and Jonathan Weisman. “In the Capitol, Revival of Mask Mandate Ignites Partisan Recriminations.” The New York Times, 28 July 2021. NYTimes.com, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/28/us/politics/congress-coronavirus-masks.html.
Meyn, Colin. “Eighth House GOP Lawmaker Issued $500 Fine for Not Wearing Mask on House Floor.” The Hill, 28 Sept. 2021, https://thehill.com/homenews/house/574344-eighth-house-gop-lawmaker-issued-500-fine-for-not-wearing-mask-on-house-floor.