Obama’s birthday plans go viral

Party planned on Martha’s Vineyard trends on Twitter.

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A banner out front a home near Edgartown Vineyard Haven Road sends birthday wishes to former President Obama. — Nicolas Ruderman

Updated Aug. 3.

Former president Barack Obama, who turns 60 on Wednesday, is hosting a birthday party at his Edgartown summer home this weekend with hundreds of guests as the Island and the country see an uptick in COVID-19 cases, according to published reports.

Per a report from Axios, the party will boast 475 confirmed guests, including celebrities Oprah Winfrey and George Clooney, and 200 plus staff to work the event. While the website initially indicated Pearl Jam was performing at the party that has since been retracted.

The report also said all guests are required to be COVID tested, the party will be held outdoors, and guests are asked to be vaccinated. A COVID coordinator will be at the event to ensure all proper protocols are followed, according to the report.

The Axios report and the controversy surrounding the party had Martha’s Vineyard trending on Twitter for most of Monday.

Daniel Schlozman, a political scientist at Johns Hopkins and a part-time Chilmark resident, told The Times the party is a perfect storm of attention “in ways that nobody else could capture in all its dimensions” and that Obama is a polarizing figure to his opponents in a way Joe Biden isn’t.

Now, in a post-Donald Trump presidency world and his former running mate in office to boot, Schlozman said Obama, who was largely careful during his first four years out of office, can have events like his birthday party.

“With Biden in the White House, Obama can enjoy a bold-faced post-presidency that he couldn’t have in the four years after he left.”

But even with a new president, Obama’s opponents critique his moves.

“Still in conservative media if you want to get a rise out of viewers you talk about Barack Obama,” Schlozman said. 

When asked about the gathering and guidelines around large gatherings, boards of health spokesperson and Tisbury health agent Maura Valley said the boards of health have only issued an advisory for indoor mask use.

A person familiar with the event told Axios that “guests are being asked to consider giving to programs that work to support boys and young men of color and their families here at home in the United States, empower adolescent girls around the world, and equip the next generation of emerging community leaders.”

Speaking to reporters in Revere Tuesday, Gov. Charlie Baker said while he didn’t get an invite to Obama’s birthday party, he would have declined the invitation.

“I think 700 people at an event like that is not a good idea,” Baker said according to Boston.com. 

Baker lifted all gathering limits and other COVID-19 restrictions in May. He said the party was a judgment call.

“That’s the beauty of judgment calls,” Baker told reporters. “We can all make our own decision about what we think is most appropriate to us. If I were to have a large family gathering outside at my house, that family gathering would involve at least one person who’s over the age of 90. That would be my father. When I visited this weekend, I wore a mask the entire time I was with him.”

A White House spokesperson told Axios that while President Joe Biden is not able to attend the event, “he looks forward to catching up with former President Obama soon and properly welcoming him into the over-sixty club.”

Edgartown health agent Matt Poole did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Nor did the office of Barack and Michelle Obama.

The Times spoke to several visitors and residents on the Island to gauge their reactions to the upcoming party.

“I think it’s exciting that he’s spending his birthday here,” Lisette Williams said. “I would like to be on the guest list.” She also mentioned she hopes Obama gets to see the paintings from the Disrupt Death Row: Arts and Justice fundraising event on Saturday.

West Tisbury resident Barbara Kassel told The Times she was an Obama supporter, but was shocked to hear of the gathering. Kassel said she and her husband are both vaccinated and have been particularly careful during the pandemic.

“We are absolutely appalled that he would go ahead and have something like this on an Island,” Kassel said. “I don’t wish him anything other than the best for his birthday but I think this is very ill conceived…This is not political, it has to do with science and health and risk.”

Jed Devine, Kassel’s husband, told The Times he didn’t understand how Obama, who has been a vocal advocate for getting vaccinated and following Centers for Disease Control guidelines could have such a large event.

“I believe in this situation a true leader cancels his party, makes a short speech that given the time and what president Biden is asking for, will cover all the expenses for all the vendors and for all the disjointed guests,” Devine said. “I just think it’s outrageous.”

“I hope it’s safe and everybody is masked and vaccinated,” Addie Amon told The Times.

Interns Eunki Seonwoo and Nicolas Ruderman contributed to this story.

Updated to correct that Pearl Jam is not playing at the party and to add comments from Gov. Baker. Interns Eunki Seonwoo and Nicolas Ruderman contributed to this story.

81 COMMENTS

  1. The Vineyard Golf Club just cancelled a huge well planed party for it’s members because of concern over Covid and so should this event. It seems some of our elites seem to love to talk about what everyone else should do but those rules do not apply to them. The Democrats are the biggest hypocrites when it comes to rules and their supporters always give them a pass and make excuses for them. .

    • Yet it’s not hypocritical for Trump to hold huge maskless rallies or all of the GOP to vote against an investigation of the Jan 6th attack and desecration of the Capitol. Not one bit! The GOP elected officials mostly refuse to go on the record as to their vaccination status which is because they keep telling their constituents that it is somehow partisan issue and a Democrat ploy to take away their freedoms. Nope, not hypocritical one bit!
      At least we can agree on one thing: once upon a time we were all vaccinated against polio (tetanus, smallpox, rubella, measles, etc.) and are much better off because of it.

      • Trumps events were pre Delta Variant. If Biden’s team had been doing their job, instead of claiming victory over COVID they would have been preparing for it to come across the pond. it started surfacing in England in April. Delta was killing people like crazy in October in India.
        Also, according to Axios and Pearl Jam, they are not performing at the event.

        • What would you have had Biden do, exactly ? It’s the Trump-washed anti-vaccinationers that are responsible for the pandemic-reawakening. Assign blame where it’s due – to “your” sycophantic amoral Republican congress that refused to embrace vaccination and masking because they feared angering the support of the already-vaccinated Trump in their upcoming reelection bids, and are only now voicing support for vaccines because the rise in cases/hospitalizations/ likely death rates amongst THEIR constituents stands in stark contrast to the more-vaccinated states in the country. Biden has done everything he possibly can to combat Covid. Trump did everything he could to deny it, and likely caused hundreds of thousands of unnecessary deaths and long-term morbidity.

        • Trump is still having a maskless event a week.
          By his account more than 60,0000 people per event. .

  2. Our entire family, friends and neighbors are vaccinated. Obama is failing his responsibilities as a vaccine spokesman, former president, Democrat figurehead, Biden supporter and Fauci advocate by grossly ignoring these Covid guidelines. Provincetown infections and hospitalizations should be a warning to these attendees and to the entire island. The rich and famous should follow Biden’s lead. Send regrets.

  3. The only thing more ill-conceived and dangerous than Obama’s Party is The Republican Party !

  4. Notice the polite squirming of some people who are not happy. No outrage, just hoping and unwiling to show conviction about this possible spreader. If it were a Republican the comments would be vicious. Trump wouldnt come here anyway.

    • No Andrew, I am an Obama supporter and this is outrageous and should be canceled immediately. It’s abhorrent. Nice try though.

    • Andie –How many negative comments did you see here during the cpac event ?
      Take a look inside the carboard box, or the ritz in OB any weekend night this summer.
      There are hundreds of people packed on the dance floors with not an inch to spare. They are there for hours, while dancing.
      Besides Andrew, when have you ever cared about a super spreader event ?

      • Keller, I welcome Obama having the party. I think its fine. I also dont care about the dance floors you are frequenting for hours. I have no idea if this party will spread anything but self gratification. If everyone is vaccinated I dont think its much of a problem at all.

    • Why bother going to a little Obama spreader when you can go to a Trump Super Spreader, every week.
      Obama can’t be President again.
      Trump can.
      Make getting Covid worth it.

  5. Every elementary school in the South will have more than 500 people in attendance daily, few of whom will be vaccinated or tested, at all day indoor learning events and that’s apparently ok. But an outdoor party of several hours with everyone vaccinated and tested is a problem? Bashing this party is just a ridiculous right wing fail.

    • You are so wrong about this. It has nothing to do with being right or left wing. Wake up. This is a serious, very contagious virus that doesn’t care who you are.
      “Using information from the earlier report, of the 50 new positive Covid-19 cases reported since July 11, 22 — or 44 per cent — have come among vaccinated individuals. Another 21 — or 42 per cent — have come among unvaccinated individuals. The other cases are unknown, according to health officials.”- Vineyard Gazette. If you are someone who is health compromised, getting this could very well end your life. And if you don’t die, getting covid is no picnic in any way. Having large gatherings is not what we should be doing right now. This is a pandemic.

      • Maybe they ought to close Fenway Park. Large gatherings of untested people, many of whom will not be vaccinated and no COVID coordinator anywhere.

  6. He’s following all of the protocols for testing and vaccinations. It will be outdoors and they have a COVID coordinator. How is this a problem?

    • And look what has happened in Tokyo. All the protocols were followed and they are experiencing a large uptick in cases. This is not a virus to fool around with.

  7. Barrack and Michelle, how I miss the most elegant, intelligent, funny and classiest family that ever graced the White House. Happy Birthday Mr. Obama. It brings me great joy to imagine your throwback 90s bash with Pearl Jam at your new home on MV. I hope there are bonfires and bongo drums into the morning hours. “People don’t stop playing because they grow old, they grow old because they stop playing.” Enjoy every moment!

  8. Self-indulgent bordering on narcissistic, reckless. Something has changed for the former president, obviously not for the better.

    • Virgil, you never found it narcissistic when Obama would come during peak August and shut down roads and businesses for his own indulgence? Not that I sympathize with tourists but a lot of visitors got locked out of restaurants among other things.

      • What bothers me here, and what should bother everyone, is the potential for Covid infections. Remember the Oct 2020 wedding at Lamberts Cove Inn that produced a mini-outbreak? Multiply that by about, oh, 40 and you can see the risks. I didn’t feel the inconveniences from his presidential years, he was far more considerate and restrained than were the Clintons. He actually kept those closures and inconveniences to a minimum, and I am down island where it would have been felt most.

        • I agree, Jeffrey. This shouldn’t be about whether people personally like or dislike Obama. It’s a matter of risk while we’re dealing with this variant. Our COVID progress has stumbled some. Liking him doesn’t cut that additional risk. Disliking him isn’t relevant. Maybe we’d have fewer deaths if the entire public focused on being practical over prioritizing their feelings on either side.

    • I complained about Beach Road. They did another number on our beautiful park too. Lovely grass torn up, quite disgusting what these towns do for money.

      • Do you complain when the grass dies from the other uses of the field? the dead spots around the soccer goals are clear as day, but i’ve not seen your complaints lodged then.

        Are the sports leagues held to the same standard Beach Road is?

        Hmmm.

        • The sports leagues that are using Veterans Memorial Park as the veterans who came together to purchase the park for the town of Tisbury to further the physical activity of the towns youth. Veterans park was purchased for the people of the town for their use in sports leagues or individual use. I a tired of hearing private parties who are hawking wears and don’t forget booze on town property. Where on the town web site does it show how much the town collected from this private venture . Do we have list of all vendors and those making money in OUR park, please let me know if you find the information I’d like to read it.

          • Right. It’s OUR park. Thousands of local residents came out to support the return of live music and local vendors who sold food and beverages on OUR field.

            Your assumptions about the Veterans intention are just assumptions. Recreational use comes in all sizes, formats, and appearances.

            You may be tired of hearing things you don’t like, but I’m tired of hearing arrogant people speak about the Veterans intentions when they actually have no authority to do so.

            You should not be so arrogant to assume you speak for those who established Veterans Memorial Park.

            There was no “hawking wares.” It was live music created by a band led by a woman who grew up on Martha’s Vineyard, whose music education was informed by her experience living on this beautiful island.

            What is your problem with that? Why do you have to make something so beautiful sound dirty and dangerous?

            If you just stopped judging from afar, you’d have experienced this all for yourself, And you would have seen that thousands of local people had fun and shared a great night under the sun and stars, safely getting together again with friends, neighbors, and visitors.

            The vendors were Coop DeVille, Mad Martha’s, Little House Cafe, El Cato Grande food truck, and The Year Round Restaurant Group. All local. All employing locals. All contributing to a safe social and entertaining experience.

            You do not speak for the Veterans and have no moral authority to invoke them to make the false argument that the park should not be used for this purpose.

        • Andrew– I know that people frequent dance floors for hours–
          You know that people attend Satanic rituals and sacrifice animals to the devil.
          So you surmise that since I know about dance floors, I am there for hours.
          By your twisted logic, it seems you have just outed yourself as a Satanic worshipper that attends rituals where animals are slaughtered.
          Check you logic before you hit the “post comment” button.

    • Were you at Beach Road Weekend? Did you examine our covid safety protocols and procedural manual that were published?

      Did you see how great it was to have people enjoy the concerts from the safety of socially distanced seating boxes?

      Perhaps, instead of complaining about something, you would do something about it.

      • I was there, and thought the Covid protocols and spacious layout made for a very safe and enjoyable event. I had a mask with me at all times, but didn’t feel the need to put it on because safe social distancing was never a problem.

        Thanks, Mr. Epstein – see you next year!

  9. It’s completely unfair to judge the man who set up a whole bio-med facility when he was in office, knowing that a pandemic or something equally as devastating was on the horizon. (Only to have it torn apart by Trump, who said we wouldn’t need it. Good call.) It’s his own private property, it sounds like strict protocols are in place, and it’s outdoors. How is it Illumination Night a good idea this year, then? Or the fair? Comparisons to P-Town, or anywhere else on the Cape, are not valid. We are on an ISLAND, 3 miles out to sea. Let him be. It’s his birthday!!

    • Using information from the earlier report, of the 50 new positive Covid-19 cases reported since July 11, 22 — or 44 per cent — have come among vaccinated individuals. Another 21 — or 42 per cent — have come among unvaccinated individuals. The other cases are unknown, according to health officials.- Vineyard Gazette. Yes, we are on an island. With a good, but small hospital. 42% of new cases have been breakthrough. Not a good number

  10. The mention of Pearl Jam doesn’t sit right with me. I expected this family to have better taste in music.

    • Jim, this is the most offensive comment in the whole thread. 😂

      Have you listened to Come Back? From the avocado album? My favorite. 😳

      • No, I have not listened to that. Why? Because it’s Pearl Jam.
        I avoid hearing them at all costs.

        • In all seriousness, I used to be good friends with Eddie in the ’90s, and he is a really nice, sweet, kind, and generous person. So, hush.

  11. Covid issues aside we’ve been preached at for over a year to lay low keep our gatherings small and can anyone tell me if folks can visit their senior loved ones in nursing homes?
    Apparently all of that is lost on egomaniacal Obama and 500 of the rich and famous. More rules for thee not for me BS. I guess Obama’s motto is if you got it flaunt it, with no regard for the sacrifice of the suffering masses. He continues to be the jerk I always thought he was.

    • And stop to consider all the possible Covid mathematical infection vectors that quite possibly might affect our small island.First you have a large percentage of the 5-700 guests and workers who will be arriving beforehand via airplane (commercial & private) as well as Ferry.How will they be transported to their hotels or private home accommodations and how will they get to Katama for this egomaniac’s bash ? Once there the interaction of 5-700 people mixing together will be incalculable especially with the raging Delta variant being so indiscriminate and “breakthrough cases” so huge ! Then, upon departure from Katama at all hours of the night you have more Covid infection variables with Limousine, taxi personnel and private ride sharing with such island old school notables as John Kerry, Valerie Jarrett, Ted Danson et al. Many guests will spend the rest of the night at aforementioned private homes or island hotels and cross paths with many local staffers and”innocent” islanders.Many of our friends and neighbors could be unwittingly infected and our respectable island Covid numbers bloated way up. We’ll see. This event should never have been planned but our narcissistic 44th does what he wants not what he pontificates so often and so loudly !
      Perhaps the Gods will take care of this via one of our famous thunder, lightning and rain squalls !

  12. O’s BD party is a continuation of the Democratic party policy that talks the talk rather than walks the walk. They should publish the quest list to show all the influential (ie. RICH, FAMOUS party contributors. Bet you money, no common or poor voters will attend.

    • He’s a private citizen, it’s a private event, on their own property. He’s not fundraising off of this OUTDOOR event.

      I think walking the walk is exactly what our current president is doing – 70% of Americans have been vaccinated as of today.

      • Jane, he’s a private citizen who has maintained a public profile and, like all with public influence, he has a responsibility to keep the messaging straight. We can barely convince people as is that Delta is a real threat and not some Democratic hoax. That is on them, the people who run with conspiracies so easily, but it looks really, really bad when someone on the pro-caution side does what others have rightfully been criticized for. It’s also dangerous now that vaccines are not proving as useful as we hoped against Delta. I swear people will overlook anything as long as the person doing it is on their “team”. Any other time, I’d say let them have their party. This is reckless.

        • Katie, Trump a private citizen who has maintained a public profile and, like all with public influence, he has a responsibility to keep the messaging straight.

          • Trump has kept the messaging pretty straight. I’d say he manages to screw up about 100% of the time when opening his mouth.

  13. I am probably one of the `furthest` from being a Obama supporter but I totally agree with some of his supporters who say ~~ “We are absolutely appalled that he would go ahead and have something like this on an Island,” !!!

  14. What possible difference does make that the party is being held on an island.
    Unless it is “your” Island!

    • A HUGE difference, that kept us safer than any other place than Nantucket during the pandemic. It is for certain MY home, where I am from, where my family is from. MY Island.

  15. SUPRISED the Times did not talk to the neighbors …their lives are going to change and so is their privacy……on we go

  16. Not so, says CDC and other data.

    Recent CDC data found that 74% of those who tested positive for Covid-19 in a Massachusetts analysis had been fully-vaccinated. Equally as troubling for those advocating vaccination-for-all: four out of five people hospitalized with Covid were fully-vaccinated. And CDC said “viral load” — indicating how able the human host is to spread Covid-19 — is about the same among the vaccinated and unvaccinated. Contrary to the infamous misinformation by CDC Director Rochelle Walensky last May, vaccinated people can— and are— spreading Covid. (CDC officials later corrected Walensky’s false claim.)

    (READ) Covid-19 Vaccine Analysis: the most common adverse events reported so far

    CDC’s newest findings on so-called “breakthrough” infections in vaccinated people are mirrored by other data releases.

    Illinois health officials recently announced more than 160 fully-vaccinated people have died of Covid-19, and at least 644 been hospitalized; ten deaths and 51 hospitalizations counted in the prior week. Israel’s Health Ministry recently said effectiveness of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has fallen to 40 percent. Last month, 100 vaccinated British sailors isolated on a ship at sea reportedly came down with Covid seven weeks into their deployment. In July, New Jersey reported 49 fully vaccinated residents had died of Covid; 27 in Louisiana; 80 in Massachusetts.

    Nationally, as of July 12, CDC said it was aware of more than 4,400 people who got Covid-19 after being fully vaccinated and had to be hospitalized; and 1,063 fully vaccinated people who died of Covid. But health officials still argue that vaccinated people make up only a small fraction of the seriously ill. Critics counter that CDC’s recent Massachusetts data calls that into question.

    The bright side of recovering from Covid-19
    But there’s promising news to be found within natural and acquired immunity statistics, according to virologists. As of May 29, CDC estimated more than 120 million Americans— more than one in three— had already battled Covid. While an estimated six-tenths of one-percent died, the other 99.4% of those infected survived with a presumed immune status that appears to be superior to that which comes with vaccination.

    If doctors could routinely test to confirm who has fought off and become immune to Covid-19, it would eliminate the practical need or rationale for those protected millions to get vaccinated. It would also allow them to avoid even the slight risk of serious vaccine side effects.

    Unfortunately, virologists say no commonly-used test can detect with certainty whether a person is immune. A common misconception is that antibody tests can make that determination. But experts say immunity after infection or exposure often comes without a person producing or maintaining measurable antibodies.

    Because of that reality, people who have had asymptomatic infections — infections where they suffered no symptoms — have no easy way to know that they’re immune. However, a growing body of evidence indicates that the millions who know they got Covid can be assured they’re unlikely to suffer reinfection, for at least as long of a time period that scientists have been able to measure. Possibly far beyond.

    • Obama’s party is canceled.

      And the reason why vaccinated people are getting covid is simple—and thanks to the selfish, unvaccinated, foolish unvaccinated people spreading and mutating a disease that our original vaccines can’t cover. Those of us who were responsible and who care enough about ourselves and others, feel furious at the insanity, blindness, and profoundly irresponsible arguments by people like Sheryl Attkisson.
      The only way to stop the covid assaults, now hurting the most vulnerable young children, is to get the damn vaccine, put your mask on in public, and shut the hell up with antivaxxer ignorance.

      If this is the real Sheryl Attkisson, readers should know she is a spreader of the garbage autism/vaccine nonsense from, where else, Florida. She is the definition and epitome of an anti-vaxxer. Her selfish and ignorant BS is not welcome here.

      • PS Google her name. I spelled it wrong— it’s Sharyl with an A. She’s a long time Obama hater as well as being the epitome of an anti-vaxxer.

      • NO ! Not canceled due to Obama’s sensitivity to the repercussions of a Covid SUPER SPREADER event ! If that was the case it would have been cancelled weeks ago when the Delta variant started to spike.
        His lackeys advised him that the weather was going to be ominous for this outdoor event !
        A few will still arrive and party on but they will be inside.
        Don’t believe the PR hype of this “cancellation”

    • There is no certainty in life.
      The vax does a good job of keeping people from getting infected and a great job of keeping them from dyeing.

    • Again, lots of information that does not belong under an article about a private citizen’s 60th birthday party.

  17. The problem here is that the ignorant selfish anti vaxxers are canceling all of our parties.
    I am back to mask wearing any time I go into a public building.
    We could be done with this, but for the ignorance and selfishness of a group of idiots who are impacting my “FREEDOM and LIBERTY “.
    To you trump supporters that hate the government telling you that you have to wear a mask to protect vulnerable people and children, you know what you can do with that and where you can put it. The tables are turned now– YOU are forcing ME to wear a mask. I never liked the mask but I wore it because it was the right thing to do. Now I wear it because a bunch of idiots can’t get past some partisan psychosis. What about MY freedom ?

  18. I can’t believe this was such an issue. A bunch of responsible A-list celebs being called into question, when Illumination Night is next week (with a questionable “guest list”, at best”). If you are unhappy, or concerned about your own health, stay home, or wear a mask. Those are your options. It’s too bad no one listened to our governor when he told people NOT to come here, or to Nantucket, in the spring of 2020. Everyone’s concern then, was tourism. Worked out well.

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