- President Donald Trump has suggested he was “patriotic” for wearing a face mask – after months of refusing to do so during the coronavirus pandemic.
- Trump had long pushed back against mandatory mask orders and said he didn’t need to wear one.
- He wore one in full display of the media for the first – and so far, only – time earlier this month while touring the Walter Reed National Military Medical Centre.
- On Monday he shared a picture of himself wearing a mask at what appeared to be that event, adding: “Many people say that it is Patriotic to wear a face mask” and “There is nobody more Patriotic than me.”
- Sources told CNN that Trump was persuaded to encourage mask-wearing when shown evidence that Americans didn’t approve of his response to the virus.
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President Donald Trump has linked wearing a face mask to being “patriotic,” marking his clearest endorsement of the step yet after months of mixed messages and refusals to wear one.
Trump on Monday night tweeted a picture of himself wearing a mask, adding: “We are United in our effort to defeat the Invisible China Virus, and many people say that it is Patriotic to wear a face mask when you can’t socially distance.
“There is nobody more Patriotic than me, your favourite President!”
His tweet called the novel coronavirus the “China virus,” repeating his inflammatory nickname that seeks to blame China for the virus but has been widely criticised as linking people of Chinese descent – including in the US – to it as well.
While images of Trump wearing a mask at a Ford factory in Michigan emerged in May, he has been seen wearing a mask in public and in front of the press just once – while he toured the Walter Reed National Military Medical Centre on July 11. The picture tweeted by Trump on Monday appeared to be from this event.
Trump told “Fox News Sunday” that he wore the mask as he did not want to “spread anything” to the troops.
But there may have been another motive. An unnamed official who was at the event told CNN that the president decided to wear a mask after being shown data indicating that Americans did not approve of Trump’s response to the virus.
Another adviser told CNN that Trump agreed to wear the mask after heavy “pleading” from aides and that Trump had not wanted to be seen to be relenting to media pressure.
While Trump has not wholly criticised medical advice that people should wear face coverings to try to limit the coronavirus’ spread, he has repeatedly said it is not necessary for him, as he is regularly tested for the virus, and has pushed back against making them mandatory in public.
Trump had long avoided wearing one, and he is believed to think doing so would make him look ridiculous and harm his reelection chances.
In May, the White House made all West Wing staffers wear masks in the building, but the rule did not apply to Trump.
Trump also went to public events without wearing one.
He was criticised in May for touring a Honeywell factory without wearing a mask, though he said he wore one “backstage,” where no cameras were present.
He also largely refused to wear one at the Ford factory, where he said, “I didn’t want to give the press the pleasure of seeing it.”
Trump has been accused of politicizing masks, saying in June that he believed some Americans were wearing them simply to express disapproval of him. The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention has since April recommended that people wear cloth face coverings in public.
On July 1, Trump said he was “all for masks” but was critical of the idea of making face masks mandatory.
In the “Fox News Sunday” interview, Trump dismissed CDC predictions that the virus could soon be brought under control if everyone wore masks.
“I don’t agree with the statement that if everybody wear a mask, everything disappears,” he said. “All of sudden everybody’s got to wear a mask, and as you know masks cause problems, too.”
But he later added: “With that being said, I’m a believer in masks. I think masks are good.”
Vice President Mike Pence, who chairs the White House coronavirus task force, also told a meeting with governors on Monday that wearing masks and social distancing “dramatically decrease the rate of community spread,” according to a recording obtained by The Daily Beast.
In refusing to wear masks, Trump had stood out against other world leaders as well as his presumptive 2020 Democratic presidential challenger, Joe Biden.
In late May, Trump shared a tweet mocking Biden for wearing a face mask at a public Memorial Day appearance.