Nancy Pelosi’s Haircut

An uncharacteristic misstep by a seasoned pro.

Every decade, it seems, a Democrat gets into political hot water for getting a haircut. Back in 1993, Bill Clinton got a $200 cut from Christophe on the tarmac at LAX (although, apparently, the much-reported delays of other airplanes didn’t happen). In 2007, John Edwards flew in Joseph Torrenueva to various campaign stops, running up charges as high as $1250 a pop to trim his gorgeous locks. In 2020, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has joined in, striking a blow for women’s equality.

When the “scandal” that she got a cut in a salon that was closed to ordinary folks because of the COVID-19 epidemic broke, I shrugged my shoulders. Yes, it’s a wee bit hypocritical and smacks of “rules for thee but not for me.” But she’s the most powerful woman in the country and, like it or not, she’s judged more harshly on her personal appearance than her male counterparts. It struck me as a venial sin unworthy of comment.

Alas, she has made a faux pax into an issue by uncharacteristic tone deafness.

San Francisco Chronicle (“Nancy Pelosi calls salon visit a ‘setup,’ refuses to apologize“):

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declined to apologize Wednesday for her visit to a San Francisco hair salon that was supposed to be closed under the city’s coronavirus pandemic rules, and suggested the business had tricked her.

Pelosi said she took responsibility for falling for the “setup” to have her hair done inside the salon Monday. But the San Francisco Democrat said that if anyone owes an apology, it’s the salon.

“I think that this salon owes me an apology, for setting me up,” she said at an event about school reopenings in San Francisco’s Noe Valley.

Pelosi’s visit to the salon set off a firestorm when Fox News posted security footage of it Tuesday. Her visit happened one day before salons in the city were allowed to open for business, but only outdoors.

The state began allowing salons and barbershops to reopen indoor service Monday, after having barred it for most of the pandemic. But individual counties can keep closures in place. In the Bay Area, San Francisco and Alameda counties are not allowing salons to have customers indoors.

Pelosi indicated that eSalon in the Marina District, where she had her hair done Monday, had given her an incorrect version of the rules.

“I take responsibility for trusting the word of the neighborhood salon that I’ve been to over the years many times, and when they said, ‘We’re able to accommodate people one person at a time.’ I trusted that,” the speaker said during a combative exchange with reporters in the empty schoolyard of Mission Education Center Elementary School.

A lawyer for the stylist who did Pelosi’s hair said in a letter released Wednesday evening the salon’s owner had reopened her business in April, in violation of various public health orders. The letter also charged that the owner objected to Pelosi’s salon visit after the fact because of her “political leanings.”

Whatever the facts of the matter, this is just a bizarre response. “The bitch set me up” didn’t work for Marion Barry and it’s especially unbecoming here.

Pelosi not only represents the district in question in Congress—and should therefore by sufficiently in touch with the circumstances of her constituents to know whether they’re allowed to get haircuts—but she’s the Speaker of the House. She has an enormous personal staff to make sure she’s not stepping into political landmines.

She’s the most effective Speaker in recent memory and a talented politician. It’s simply bizarre that she’s responding to a one-day mini-scandal as though she were an amateur.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Jen says:

    The piece I read, on the BBC’s website, reported that the salon rents chairs to stylists (this is typical), and that her stylist said it was permitted.

    It would be frustrating to be lied to in this manner, and that the salon owner got involved is weird and does seem a bit like a setup. That said, I agree, apologize and move on. That Republicans/Fox News are trying to make a “thing” of this is hilarious–I mean, come on. If we’re now suddenly going to pretend that optics matter and that rules for thee but not for me is a thing, let’s discuss the President, his cabinet, his family, etc.

  2. Scott F. says:

    That Pelosi being hypocritical and subsequently tone deaf is a political landmine for her, while the 20 things Trump said in the last 3 days that were batsh!t insane won’t be not a political landmine for him tells you everything you need to know about the political moment we are in now.

  3. Mikey says:

    Here’s a letter from the stylist’s lawyers:

  4. Jen says:

    @Mikey: This is not surprising to me.

    A LOT of business owners are very angry about the restrictions, and are doing whatever they can to skirt them (see, for example, wedding venues in Massachusetts and Maine that have allowed for receptions that exceed the 50 person cap).

    Businesses do a lot of complaining about regulations, and we are told that businesses will “do the right thing,” because not doing so would cause them to be penalized by customers, etc. We now see that argument is nonsense, and that at least some have decided that they’d rather do what they want to and then throw someone else under the bus if caught.

  5. wr says:

    You say it right in the first sentence of your post — every decade or so, the Republicans are so completely out of any real accusations to make against their opponents, they dream up some schtick about haircuts. And then the press toddles along — unfortunately this time with you in stride — ignoring the felonies being committed by the other side so they can yap about those terrible Democrats with their haircuts.

    Last night the Republican president committed the felony of urging his fellow Republicans to commit the felony of voting multiple times. But let’s talk about Nancy’s haircut!

  6. HarvardLaw92 says:

    Calling it a setup and breaking out the indignant act when she knew or should have known that she was both setting herself up to look like a hypocrite and probably violating some sort of regulation (it is California after all) is her worst mistake, and one I wouldn’t have expected from a seasoned pro. Agree, apologize and move on. She’s making it a thing when it doesn’t have to be one.

  7. EddieInCA says:


    Bullshit. The owner released security footage because she doesn’t like Pelosi’s politics. The stylists’ lawyer’s letter clearly lays out that the salon owner is the one who created the political firestorm. Good on Pelosi for telling her to pound sand.

  8. HarvardLaw92 says:


    Spare me. Pelosi has been around long enough to know not to put herself into this sort of situation in the first place. This is an amateur hour mistake, which she’s making worse by making a stink about it and giving it wings – which is her second mistake. She screwed up. Acknowledge it, apologize, and move on.

  9. EddieInCA says:


    No. You spare me. Quit your pearl clutching, snowflake. No one gives a crap about her haircut other than people predisposed to not like her politics. Full stop.


  10. HarvardLaw92 says:


    It has nothing to do with a fricking haircut. Sheesh.

    It has to do with her putting herself into a position where she’s open to being portrayed as a hypocrite about mask rules.

    This is professional retail politics, where anything and everything – the tiniest slip up – can be and will be weaponized and used against you. You can lament that state of affairs, and I wouldn’t disagree with you, but in the meantime it’s the game that’s on the table, like it or not, and somebody who has been playing it as long as Pelosi has should have known better than to put herself into this position in the first place. Bottom line – she’s a tough old broad who doesn’t need you standing up for her. Shes’s a big girl and this time she just fk’ed up. It happens, to everyone, but how she’s dealing with it after the fact is making it worse.

  11. Nightcrawler says:

    This is why I shun all these parties, -isms, -ists, and -ians. Since I’m not a Dem, I’m not blood-bound to defend or explain this.

    This is an amateur hour mistake, which she’s making worse by making a stink about it and giving it wings – which is her second mistake. She screwed up. Acknowledge it, apologize, and move on.

    I agree.

    This is why I hate PR and would never, ever want to work in that industry. You have to deal with too many idiot clients who spout off when they should sit down, STFU, and let you clean up their mess.

  12. Monala says:

    I hope the poor stylist, who was trying to do the right thing, gets a new job and a boatload of new customers from this.

  13. inhumans99 says:

    I just want to say thank God it is President Trump pointing out Pelosi’s hypocrisy (and sorry folks, but I am with Harvard and James on this one…rookie mistake, but hey…she has a lot of weight on her shoulders and sometimes common sense accidentally ends up in the back seat).

    Again, thank goodness it is Trump heckling her…if it was Rubio, Cruz, maybe even Tom Cotton or Jim Jordan this would become something that would have me concerned about the election, but this really is a nothingburger. Also, to contradict myself a bit I also feel Pelosi is right that she was set up and is frustrated that the GOP is more interested in generating Gotcha type stories for their base than helping them get back on their feet…something that Dems should continue to point out from now until the election.

    Instead of burying this story, Pelosi should use her faux pas to hammer away at the GOP that they are more interested in trying to weaken and embarrass her than doing that MAGA thing they are supposed to have going for them (i.e., turn a story that could have weakened her into a strength as it can illustrate where the GOP’s priorities lie vs what the GOP’s priorities should actually be during a pandemic).

  14. wr says:

    @inhumans99: Find me one person in this country who was going to vote for Biden but decided to vote Trump because Pelosi got her hair cut, and I’ll do my best to whirl myself into the same frenzy of arrogant savviness that so many others are. Until then, why is anyone wasting one second on this? (I mean other than JJ — ya got a daily blog that needs filling, that’s what these stories are for…)

  15. Blue Galangal says:

    @HarvardLaw92: The salon owner illegally released security camera footage (in a two-party consent state) of a stylist and her client to attack Nancy Pelosi for a restriction Nancy Pelosi wasn’t even responsible for enacting. She then appeared on Fox “News.” The salon owner also has let her license lapse. But tell me again how this was Pelosi’s misstep and not just a big misogynistic distraction from Trump’s endless failures. When is Trump getting his hair cut? How about Mitch?

    Nancy went to get her hair cut on the first day that it was legally permissible and followed all the rules and regulations. She was spied on illegally and she should call them out for it.

    ETA: tl;dr Why are women always supposed to sit down and shut up and smile nicely when attacked?

  16. EddieInCA says:


    Right. As if this is going to move the needle on anything. It’s nothing about nothing. Politician is a hypocrite? Film at 11, every night of the freaking week.



    Not one person is going to say “Oh Jeez. Nancy Pelosi is a hypocrite. I’m not going to vote for her.” Not one person is going to say “Oh, Jeez. Nancy Pelosi is a hypocrite. I’m’ not going to vote for Joe Biden because of it.”

    Pull up your big boy pants. And, again, good for her for telling the owner to pound sand.

  17. HarvardLaw92 says:


    And yet you feel compelled to defend her at length, which is exactly why these tactics they’re engaging in work. They subvert the conversation.

    Her best path here is to derail it by neutering it and move on. Make a thing out of it and it becomes a bigger thing. You of all people, being in your business, should know enough about PR from Streisand’s stupidity to know that’s the correct analysis here.

  18. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Blue Galangal:

    Sure, but none of that matters, it all serves to keep the discussion about her faux pas going, and it’s counterproductive.

    She shouldn’t want to win this specious battle which offers her nothing productive. She should want to derail it and get back on topic on things that are productive for her. She should be acting and instead she’s reacting. When you do that, you’re allowing someone else to drive the narrative for their purposes, and in politics that never leads anywhere useful.

  19. Grewgills says:

    These three things are all simultaneously true:
    1. It was amateurish and tone deaf of Pelosi. She, or at least her people, should have known the relevant restrictions and been scrupulous about following them. Her response keeps it going rather than shuts it down, also a mistake.
    2. It was a set up. The owner of the salon clearly has a political ax to grind and set up Pelosi.
    3. It’s not going to change a single person’s opinion about or vote for/against Pelosi, Biden, or Trump. It is another side circus with a petty grievance about a democrat shoplifting a snickers while the republicans are burning the store down and blocking the doors so no one can escape the fire.

    Edited for grammar and clarity.

  20. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Blue Galangal:

    I had to read the California statutes and case law. Note: two party consent is a wiretapping statute in California. Ie it concerns audio, and even there a lot of grey exists. Recording video alone, however, in a space where someone has no legitimate expectation of privacy – like a hair salon – isn’t illegal. No consent is required.

  21. Raoul says:

    The comments above are on point-nobody cares. For me what’s is striking is the owner releasing the footage. Very unprofessional.

  22. Matt says:


    Last night the Republican president committed the felony of urging his fellow Republicans to commit the felony of voting multiple times

    Meanwhile the pumpkin bumpkins cheer him on. I’m sure many will try to vote twice and if enough of them do it then that’ll clog the election counting pipeline even more further delaying results. Delayed results = demoncRATS rigging the election….

  23. Blue Galangal says:

    I am guilty of keeping this going, but I’m going to push back once again on the sexism inherent in this criticism. Women already have the burden of having to “look good.” Men spend 15 minutes at the barber and never think about it again. One of the interesting things about COVID is women realising how much $$ and time they spend on grooming. Nancy waited until it was legal and approved for her to GO GET HER HAIR DONE because she has to appear on camera all the time. Restrictions had been lifted that day and Nancy followed the rules and regulations. That she felt the need to have to go get her hair done? That’s partly on us. Maybe Trump is making hair and makeup great again among men, but for women this is another one of those unfunded mandates that we have to follow to participate in a patriarchal society. And then, of course, we are subjected to criticism for it both way – we don’t satisfy men with our appearance or we’re vain and shallow.

  24. al Ameda says:

    I live out here near Salon Ground Zero, and I’ll weigh in very briefly.
    (1) Pelosi should have known better.
    (2) The shop owner was definitely politically motivated to publicize this.
    (3) See (1)
    (4) This will not cause Pelosi’s defeat in November.
    (5) This will not influence the voting in any of the toss-up states – WI, MI, OH, PA, NC, FL, AZ in November.
    (6) See (1) (3)

  25. Tyrell says:

    I don’t care about the haircut hassle. The mayor of Chicago did the same thing, but was honest and forward about it. She needs to get out in the streets and run the gangs out of town.
    Pelosi needs to stop using so much lotion on her face. It shows up way shinier than a red Mustang with a new wax job!