May 21, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Trump says he declined to wear a mask to avoid giving the "press the pleasure"

President Trump on Thursday said he removed his face mask during a tour of a Ford plant in Michigan because he "didn’t want to give the press the pleasure” of seeing him wearing the protective covering.

The state of play: Trump said he kept a mask on during a private portion of the tour, but took it off once in-view of the press. An open letter from Michigan’s attorney general warned that it was “the law of this state" to wear a mask.

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has advised that people wear facial coverings when in public to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
  • Michigan currently has one of the highest case counts in the U.S., with 53,512 positive tests and 5,129 deaths.

What he's saying: The president noted that he is regularly tested for the virus, as recently as Thursday morning.

  • "I had [a mask] on in an area where they preferred it," Trump said.
  • When asked about the example his choice sets for Americans, Trump responded: "I think it sets an example. I think it sets an example both ways."
  • During Thursday's visit, Trump pushed to ease social-distancing restrictions. He blamed Democrats for stalling the economy, saying they were “hurting their states."

Between the lines: White House rules now require staff to wear masks while in the West Wing, though Trump has largely refused to wear one publicly amid the pandemic.

  • Multiple White House staffers have tested positive for the virus, including Trump's valet.

Vice President Mike Pence has also scarcely worn a mask in public. He wore one while touring a General Motors plant in Indiana after receiving backlash following a visit to the Mayo Clinic.

Go deeper