SACRAMENTO (CBS / AP) — Trick or treating with his four children on Halloween trumped an international stage devoted to climate change, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Tuesday in explaining why he abruptly canceled plans to attend the United Nations gathering in Scotland.
Newsom, a Democrat, has had a frenetic three years in office, dealing with an unprecedented pandemic, record-breaking destruction from wildfires, a drought and fighting for his political life in only the second gubernatorial recall election in state history. Newsom beat back the recall in September and then spent the next several weeks considering hundreds of bills passed by the Legislature.
His plan to travel with his wife to Glasgow just ahead of Halloween was the last straw for his young kids, aged 5 to 12.
"I've been on this damn treadmill, we've gone from crisis to crisis," Newsom said at the start of a "fireside chat" during an economic summit in Monterey, his first public appearance in nearly two weeks. "The kids, literally, they kind of had an intervention. They said they couldn't believe that I was going to miss Halloween."
Newsom said at first he defended himself, saying he and his wife had to go to the United Nations conference. But after waking up the next morning with "that knot in your stomach," Newsom said: "I had to cancel that trip," earning applause from the audience.
Newsom's announcement on Oct. 29 that he would not attend the conference did not contain any of those details, saying simply he could not attend because of unspecified "family obligations." Newsom then disappeared from public view for nearly two weeks. For most of that time representatives from his office did not say where he was or what he had been doing.
Neither the governor nor his office have said why they didn't include more details before Tuesday about where Newsom was.
"A governor's absence is always a matter of public concern. That's especially true for a governor claiming sole authority to control people's lives through a 'State of Emergency,'" tweeted Republican Assemblyman Kevin Kiley, who ran for governor in the recall election. Kiley has repeatedly tried and failed to convince his colleagues in the Democratic-controlled state Legislature to limit Newsom's emergency powers during the pandemic.
By Monday, Newsom's absence had prompted speculation about his health, mostly among conservatives on social media who rallied around the hashtag #wheresgavin. Photos over the weekend published in Vogue showed Newsom at the wedding of Ivy Love Getty, a model and great-granddaughter of billionaire oil tycoon J. Paul Getty. The Getty and Newsom families have long been friends, with Newsom's father once managing the Getty family trust.
Gordon Getty, the son of J. Paul Getty, helped finance Newsom's entrance into the wine and hospitality business in the early 1990s. Getty family members have been major donors to Newsom's campaigns.
Newsom's wife, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, added to the intrigue on Sunday night with a tweet telling people to "please stop hating and get a life." The tweet, which was quickly deleted but survives in screenshots posted online, said in part: "When someone cancels something, maybe they're just in the office working; maybe in their free time they're at home with their family, at their kids' sports matches, or dining out with their wife."
On Monday, Newsom's office said the governor had been working in the Capitol on "urgent issues, including COVID-19 vaccines for kids, boosters, ports, the forthcoming state budget and California's continued economic recovery."
Newsom's allies quickly came to his defense on social media, including Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez. The Democrat from San Diego tweeted that Newsom "is a husband & father of 4 young children who worked his butt off nearly every day during this pandemic & was rewarded by facing a ridiculous partisan recall election. I don't care what he's taking time to do with his family, he deserves time off."
When he emerged Tuesday, Newsom added details of his week out of the spotlight. He went to his kids' soccer tournament and took them trick-or-treating, having quickly obtained a pirate costume to join them. He said he brought his children to the Capitol last week, participating for the first time in tourist traditions like taking a selfie with the statue of a grizzly bear — the animal that appears on the state flag — outside of the governor's office.
The children also got coloring books that are regular handouts from the Senate president pro tempore's office.
"It's been probably the most productive week I've had since I've been governor," Newsom said.
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