DENVER (KDVR) – Denver Mayor Michael Hancock traveled by air Wednesday to see family for Thanksgiving, after making recent public statements urging people to avoid gathering with others outside their households.

Following a wave of critical comments online, Hancock issued an apology Wednesday afternoon.

“I apologize to the residents of Denver who see my decision as conflicting with the guidance to stay at home for all but essential travel. I made my decision as a husband and father, and for those who are angry and disappointed, I humbly ask you to forgive decisions that are borne of my heart and not my head,” the mayor said.

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Hancock was “traveling alone to join his wife and daughter where the three of them will celebrate Thanksgiving at her residence instead of having them travel back to Denver,” a city spokesperson said in an statement Wednesday morning.

Hancock’s daughter lives in Mississippi.

“Upon return, he will follow all necessary health and safety guidance and quarantine,” the city spokesperson said.

At a news conference last Friday, Hancock urged people to “celebrate with just those you live with.” He also urged city employees to avoid traveling for Thanksgiving in a letter on Nov. 18.

In both the news conference and letter, the mayor referenced that he was canceling the large Thanksgiving gathering he normally holds with extended family, but did not reveal his travel plans.

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In his Wednesday afternoon statement, Hancock said, “What I did not share, but should have, is that my wife and my daughter have been in Mississippi, where my daughter recently took a job.”

On Wednesday morning – the day of his flight – a tweet from the mayor’s account said, “Pass the potatoes, not COVID,” and, “Host virtual gatherings instead of in-person dinners. Avoid travel, if you can.”

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Hancock has made similar public statements recently as the number of Coronavirus cases rise and increased restrictions have gone into effect in Denver and across Colorado.

Mayor Hancock’s full statement

Hancock issued a statement Wednesday afternoon on his decision to fly out of state to be with his wife and daughter for Thanksgiving:

I fully acknowledge that I have urged everyone to stay home and avoid unnecessary travel. I have shared how my family cancelled our plans for our traditional multi-household Thanksgiving celebration. What I did not share, but should have, is that my wife and my daughter have been in Mississippi, where my daughter recently took a job. As the holiday approached, I decided it would be safer for me to travel to see them than to have two family members travel back to Denver.

I recognize that my decision has disappointed many who believe it would have been better to spend Thanksgiving alone. As a public official, whose conduct is rightly scrutinized for the message it sends to others, I apologize to the residents of Denver who see my decision as conflicting with the guidance to stay at home for all but essential travel. I made my decision as a husband and father, and for those who are angry and disappointed, I humbly ask you to forgive decisions that are borne of my heart and not my head.

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