Trump may pay lip service to supporting mask-wearing during the pandemic, but he clearly still doesn’t take it seriously
After months of downplaying the seriousness of the coronavirus pandemic, Donald Trump finally started to put on a mask during public appearances in July, several months after the CDC started recommending that everyone wear them in public spaces. We hoped that moment might mark the end of the culture war over face coverings — at least in political arenas — but it absolutely did not. Trump has continued to shirk the public responsibility we all have to keep each other safe by covering out mouths and noses around them — and on Monday, he tried to get a reporter to shirk that responsibility, too.
During a press conference at the White House on Monday afternoon, Trump had a tense exchange with Reuters correspondent Jeff Mason after Mason refused to remove his mask at the president’s request.
Mason was the first reporter at the press conference to ask the president a question, but as he stood up and started to speak, Trump cut him off, saying, “you’re going to have to take that off, please.” He then gestured at the space between Mason’s chair and his podium and added, “you’re… how many feet are you away?”
Mason didn’t remove his mask as requested though. He said he would just speak louder, despite Trump’s continued insistence that he was “very muffled” with a face covering on, “so if you would take it off, it would be a lot easier.”
Mason instead just spoke up, and when he asked the president if it was better, he replied with a deep sigh and said, “it’s better. Yeah, it’s better.”
You’d think that would be the end of it, but this is Donald Trump we’re talking about — he doesn’t just let petty arguments go. So later in the press conference when another reporter asked a question without a mask on, Trump made sure to point out that they sounded “so clear. As opposed to everybody else, where they refuse.”
To be clear, Mason made the right choice, even though the press conference was socially distanced and held outside. According to experts, he probably could have removed his mask, but it’s always safer to avoid doing so whenever possible, since more and more new research shows that the coronavirus is airborne and can linger in the air for some time, potentially infecting anyone who walks through a cloud of viral particles. This isn’t the first time Trump has tried to get a reporter to remove their mask, but if he cared about science and public health, it would be the last.