California Rep Eric Swalwell was heavily mocked after photos surfaced of him and another Democrat congressman posing topless while riding camels during a trip to Qatar reportedly paid for by a special interest group.
Reps Swalwell and Ruben Gallego of Arizona, along with their wives, were seen in photos posted to Instagram on a now-removed account, riding camels without masks in March. At the time, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention strongly urged people to wear face masks outside even if vaccinated against the coronavirus, Insider reported on Friday.
The photos were reportedly posted by congressman Gallego’s then-fiancee Sydney Barron Gallego and appear to have been taken during a trip funded by the US-Qatar Business Council. According to the Washington Examiner, the trade group spent more than $84,000 and involved at least three other lawmakers, per data from LegiStorm.
It’s worth noting that the congressmen got approval from the House Ethics Committee for the trip, which included time for meetings and “personal time.” However, private groups cannot fund entertainment activities during such excursions, under House rules. Family members, however, are allowed to join in these trips, according to the Examiner.
The US-Qatar Business Council has strongly denied funding the camel ride. “USQBC did not pay for any camel rides during the trip to Qatar. As indicated in its filings required to obtain approval from the House Committee on Ethics, USQBC only covered costs directly associated with travel and the working agenda of the trip,” the trade group said in a statement given to the Washington Examiner.
Swalwell is no stranger to controversy. The 2020 presidential hopeful recently faced calls to be removed from the House Intelligence Committee after it emerged that he had once dated suspected Chinese spy Fang Fang.
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