Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams appeared on CNN to apologize for a viral photo of her posing at a reading event with elementary-aged school children without a mask on.

“Protocols matter, and protecting our kids is the most important thing, and anything that can be perceived as undermining that is a mistake, and I apologize,” Abrams said in an interview Tuesday night on CNN’s Erin Burnett OutFront.

Abrams attended a reading event to celebrate Black History month at Glenwood Elementary School in Decatur, Georgia. The school remains under an indoor masking policy until February 22.

Georgia Republicans lashed out at Abrams as the photo made the rounds through social media. Gubernatorial opponents called her a “hypocrite,” since she is an outspoken supporter of mask policies.

In the photo, all the school children were wearing masks. Abrams said she originally took her mask off because she wanted the students who were tuning in remotely to be able to hear her.

“In the excitement after I finished, because it was so much fun working with those kids, I took a picture – and that was a mistake,” she said. “My responsibility in that moment was to explain to those kids why I was doing something they weren’t doing and then as soon as possible to put that mask back on.”

Abrams said if she became governor, she would not consider lifting the mask mandates until Georgia, which currently has among the lowest percentage of vaccinated citizens, has a higher vaccination rate.

“Covid hygiene is going to be a point of debate for a very long time, and we can only follow the science and follow our circumstances,” Abrams said. “I would look at the science, to follow the protocols, and to set the right example.”

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