In an op-ed for the New York Times, California restaurant critic Tejal Rao that the images of Gavin Newsom dining maskless at the most luxurious, exclusive restaurant in the Golden State while ordering small businesses to comply with his crippling coronavirus restrictions kicked the recall into high gear.

“If Gov. Gavin Newsom had been spotted on the patio of a tiny neighborhood bistro just after urging California residents to stay home last November, we might not be blogging about a recall today,” argued Rao.

“Instead, Mr. Newsom was seen at The French Laundry, attending the birthday dinner of Sacramento lobbyist Jason Kinney,” she added. “The images of him hobnobbing with guests, indoors, without a mask on, at one of the country’s most expensive restaurants, were immediately and powerfully symbolic.”

Though she opposed the recall election, Lisa Bonos of the Washington Post agreed that Newsom’s French Laundry scandal fueled the recall effort in a way that was not previously possible.

“The recall effort was underway long before Newsom sat down to dinner here. But the meal provided red meat for Republicans opposed to his liberal policies and others who see the governor as elitist and out of touch,” noted Bonos.

During the fall of 2020, Gov. Gavin Newsom kept restaurants from serving food indoors and at full capacity, a rule that prompted cries of hypocrisy after photos leaked of him attending an in-person dinner at Napa’s luxurious French Laundry restaurant. Award-winning journalist Adam Housley — a previous Emmy, AP, and RTNDA recipient — claimed that the maskless dinner had 22 guests and ran up a bar bill of over $15k.

“Because Yountville is my hometown..and where the French Laundry is located…I thought I’d do some digging. Facts about the Newsom dinner. The bar bill was around 15-thousand. 22 people in attendance, not 12. No masks. All indoors. They got so loud, other patrons complained,” Housley tweeted.

“There was ‘zero effort’ to go outside and there was no social distancing of any type. I’m also told some of those there are now privately laughing at the controversy. Remember this is my little hometown. The walls speak,” he added.

Newsom apologized for the optics

“Instead of sitting down, I should have stood up and walked back, got in my car and drove back to my house,” Newsom said, adding that “we’re all human.”

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