Missouri governor says speech venue change disrespected him

Gov Mike Parson press conference.jpg
Posted at 10:59 AM, Feb 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-01 13:44:34-05

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Missouri Gov. Mike Parson said he felt disrespected when leaders of the Republican-led House told him just hours before he was due to deliver his State of the State address that he couldn't do it in that chamber because of coronavirus concerns.

Parson instead made his speech before the Senate last Wednesday, in a break from tradition.

The Republican governor wrote a letter Friday to GOP lawmakers calling the cancellation of the speech in the House an "insider stunt and petty show of arrogance and political power."

"It is hard to see this as anything other than a purposeful and disgusting scheme to embarrass me and the Office of the Governor," he wrote.

House lawmakers had only just returned to the Capitol after canceling work for a week because of an outbreak of COVID-19. The Senate has remained in session, but Sen. Andrew Koenig said he tested positive for the virus days before Parson's address. Several other senators were quarantining.

Parson himself was infected with the coronavirus in September but was asymptomatic.

Republican legislative leaders had said in a joint statement that they switched venues to ensure proper social distancing.

The top Senate Democrat questioned why Parson gave an in-person speech at all rather than livestreaming or prerecording it.

"The Governor's desire to give a big speech in-person is about vanity and optics," Senate Minority Leader John Rizzo said in a statement before Parson's speech. "He could easily give this address online from his office without putting anyone else's health at risk."

Parson called out the House for denying him while continuing to hold in-person hearings and gathering to vote and debate bills in the House chamber, which seats 163 representatives.

Many lawmakers don't wear masks, which is not required in Missouri. Parson has repeatedly spoken against mask mandates and said he won't require face coverings.