Advice for Elizabeth Holmes: Wear a Mask

The Theranos founder would incorrectly prefer not to.

SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA - MAY 4: Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes leaves the Robert F. Peckham Federal...
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good advice for bad people

The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday that Theranos, Inc. founder Elizabeth Holmes told a federal judge that she would “strongly prefer not to” wear a face mask during her upcoming criminal fraud trial. As a COVID-19 precaution, the room will be fitted with plexiglass panels in front of the judge and attorneys, and jurors will be asked to be masked. Witnesses will likely not be masked, the WSJ reports, “so jurors can judge their full demeanor during testimony.” Air filters will be scattered around the courtroom and placed next to the potentially maskless, at her request, Holmes.

Of course we do not have warm feelings toward Ms. Holmes, and normally this would preclude us from giving her advice of any kind. However, an unquenchable desire to put correct opinions into the universe has made us unable to stop ourselves from pointing something out.

It would probably be to Elizabeth Holmes’s benefit to not not wear a mask.

Why does Elizabeth Holmes want to be maskless? One of my coworkers suggested that wearing a mask might remind the jury of illness and thus make them less sympathetic to her scam. They will already be masked themselves, though, which might be a more significant reminder. It might be that she believes her bare face will be able to better convey sorrow, or contrition. Maybe she thinks a mask might “mask” her humanity.

Elizabeth Holmes, if I may speak directly to you: You are the face of Theranos in a very literal way. You have the face of a health scam, and that is not a great face to have on display during a pandemic-set criminal fraud trial. I have seen your face many times and it has not once conveyed to me contrition or humanity. If we weren’t experiencing a global health crisis in which wearing a face mask functioned as a significant deterrent, one wouldn’t blame you for thinking, I wish we were experiencing a global health crisis in which wearing a face mask functioned as a significant deterrent.

Elizabeth Holmes — again I regret to give you advice, but — you should wear a face mask.

That’s all, thank you.