Oct 4, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Trump campaign adviser defends first family refusing to wear masks at debate

Trump campaign adviser Steve Cortes defended President Trump's family after they broke Cleveland Clinic rules by declining to wear masks at last week's presidential debate, saying on "Fox News Sunday" that "we believe in masks, but we also believe in some element of individual choice."

The backdrop: First lady Melania Trump, Ivanka Trump, Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump and several guests entered the debate hall with masks on but took them off after being seated — a violation of the rules that both campaigns had agreed to. An official from the Cleveland Clinic offered the family masks but was waved away.

The big picture: Since the debate on Tuesday night, President Trump, Melania Trump and dozens of their possible contacts have tested positive for the coronavirus. While Cortes argued that everyone who attended the debate was required to have a negative test, the rapid antigen tests often used by the White House are not always accurate.

What he's saying: After insisting that the Trump family were adequately distanced and had been tested, Cortes pivoted to attacking Fox News' Chris Wallace — who moderated the debate — over allegations that he was unfair to the president.

  • "The way you are starting to harangue me now actually reminds me of what you did to the president during that debate on Tuesday night," Cortez said.
  • "He had to debate not just Joe Biden, but you as well. You were not a neutral moderator then."

Wallace shot back: "Steve, let me simply say the president interrupted me and the vice president 145 times, so I object to saying I harangued the president. I know it's the talking point."

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