Trump went unmasked for the entire public portion of his tour of the plant on Thursday, defying recommendations from the state’s attorney general and Bill Ford, the car company’s executive chairman, amid the coronavirus pandemic. However, he did briefly put on a mask during a “private viewing of three Ford GTs from over the years” before removing it, Ford said in a statement on Thursday.
Public health officials say wearing a mask is an effective way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to other people, and Trump’s top medical advisers have all worn masks at his briefings. The president has never worn a mask in public.
A photograph obtained by NBC News on Thursday shows Trump wearing a face mask with the presidential seal on it at the Ford plant on Thursday afternoon. However, Trump did not wear the mask during open portions of his tour, nor did he sport it openly in front of the cameras.
“I did not want to give the press the pleasure of seeing it,” Trump said on Thursday while waving his mask around.
Trump’s defiance came amid a politically charged visit to Michigan, a battleground state run by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat. Trump has previously encouraged armed protesters to defy the state’s lockdown and recently threatened to pull federal funding from the state over its decision to expand voting by mail, which he claims will allow voter fraud.
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel had warned Trump to obey the Ford company’s mask rule prior to his visit, and she criticized him for not doing so after it happened.
“The president is like a petulant child who refuses to follow the rules,” Nessel told CNN. “This is no joke.”
Whitmer said Trump’s behaviour “wasn’t surprising but it was disappointing.”
Whitmer told MSNBC that anyone with a public platform “has a responsibility to make sure that they model precisely what we’re asking everyone else to do.”
Many world leaders, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and Chinese President Xi Jinping have been unafraid to don masks in front of the public.
On Wednesday, for example, Trudeau said he wears a mask whenever he can’t stay at least two metres away from other people outside of his home.
“That is my personal choice,” he said. “That is aligned, I think, with what public health is recommending.”
But not Trump. The president has spent the last several months promoting unproven remedies for the coronavirus (i.e. hydroxychloroquine), while occasionally trying to guess at other possible cures, such as injecting disinfectant into the human body — something that no person should ever do.
Meanwhile, Trump has ignored the advice of his own medical experts when it comes to wearing a mask. Vice-President Mike Pence and members of Trump’s team have also largely declined to wear masks, although Pence did wear one to a General Motors plant last month.
Trump has said he doesn’t need to wear a mask because he gets tested daily for the coronavirus. Many other world leaders also have access to testing, but they still opt to wear masks.
“If you’re instructing people to do stuff and you yourself aren’t doing it, that often sends the wrong message, and that’s an inconsistency in the guidance,” Dr. Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease expert at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, told the New York Times last month.
Trump has told aides that he’s afraid wearing a mask makes him look weak, the Associated Press reports.
The United States leads the world with more than 1.6 million infections and more than 96,000 deaths from the virus to date. Russia has the second-most cases in the world, followed by Brazil.
The president was at the Ford plant to see how the car company has transitioned to building ventilators for the coronavirus effort. He also used his visit to tout a new slogan, “Transition to Greatness,” as he pushes governors to end their lockdowns and reopen the country. Trump has been eager to restart the economy, which he has often linked to his re-election chances for November.
The president blasted Nessel in a Twitter rant on Thursday night, calling her “wacky” and declaring that he “did put on a mask” for part of his tour.
Meanwhile, Trump’s critics were quick to pounce on photos of him in a mask, spreading the images across Twitter to spite the president.
Now THAT wasn't so hard, was it?
Spanky FINALLY wore a mask, but took it off quickly because he hates how it looks on him.
— BrooklynDad_Defiant! (@mmpadellan) May 22, 2020
Here is the first picture of Trump wearing a mask.
Please DO NOT circulate this image. pic.twitter.com/d5XRs2vkWr
— Travis Allen 🇺🇸 (@TravisAllen02) May 22, 2020
“Why is it so hard to put on a mask?” one user asked. “Show some leadership!”
Others offered some positive reviews of Trump’s masked look.
“Can I just say that I love the mask,” one woman tweeted. “Please can we see more of this type of leadership. Mr. Trump you look so … handsome.”
Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:
Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.
To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.
For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.
— With files from the Associated Press
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.