Former President Barack Obama is set to turn 60 soon, and he was reportedly planning to host a massive birthday celebration at his family’s $12 million 30-acre estate in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts with nearly 500 guests and as many as 200 workers present.
Such a highly attended shindig seems at odds with the anxious fear-mongering out of President Joe Biden’s White House over recent upticks in cases of COVID-19, however — and amid great criticism and cries of hypocrisy, it now appears that Obama has substantially scaled back his initial plans, Newsmax reports.
Now, instead of the estimated 475 invited celebrities and high-profile politicos who were expected to attend, attendance at the event will be limited to just family and close friends, a spokesperson for the former president said.
Obama’s team cited concern over the continuing spread of the delta variant of the coronavirus as the reason for the change in plans — and, of course, made no mention of the widespread criticism or charges of elitist hypocrisy.
That criticism had been fierce, according to the New York Post, and mainly from Republicans, who speculated as to how the incident would be viewed by the media if it were former President Donald Trump instead of Obama playing host to a mass gathering amid a surging pandemic.
Indeed, as mask mandates are being reimposed across the country and some locales are flirting with reimposing strict lockdowns, having hundreds of celebrities gather together — even if outdoors and fully vaccinated — appeared sharply out of touch and at odds with the concerns of the Biden administration and public health officials.
Further, the Post noted that anonymous workers hired for the event said preparations had been “insane” and a “nightmare” as the small but extraordinarily wealthy community got ready for the overwhelming influx of high-profile guests — and everything else that comes with them.
Nothing to see here
Axios had been among the first outlets over the weekend to report on Obama’s planned birthday bash, which would reportedly have been largely held outdoors at the Obama estate and have been overseen by a special “COVID-coordinator” hired especially for the event.
All of the invited guests were requested to be fully vaccinated as well as produce a recent negative COVID-19 test result prior to attendance, but there was no word on whether those guests would also be required to wear masks at all times during the event, particularly while indoors to use the restroom or for other purposes.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki was asked during Monday’s press briefing about Obama’s upcoming birthday party and if it set the “wrong example” for the public in light of the administration’s expressed concerns about the delta variant. Psaki was also asked specifically if the White House was worried that Obama’s party could end up being a “super-spreader event” — as so many gatherings under Trump had been described.
In the best diplomatic spin she could muster, Psaki praised her former boss Obama and dismissed the questions about concerns by suggesting everything would be fine, since the party would be held outdoors and was in an area deemed to have only “moderate” spread of the virus by public health officials.
In the end, despite the planned party quite obviously being contradictory to the White House’s COVID concerns, Psaki reiterated her defense of Obama and shifted the burden of answering any further questions about it to the former president’s team.