Donald Trump was finally photographed wearing a mask Thursday during the private section of a high-profile visit to a Ford factory – but spent the entire public part of the tour defying its boss Bill Ford’s request to cover up.
In public, Trump held the navy blue face covering with the seal of the president on it, but added he didn’t want to give the media the ‘pleasure’ of seeing him wear one.
‘I wore one in this back area. I didn’t want to give the press the pleasure of seeing it,’ he said during his tour of the Rawsonville Components Plant. ‘I had the goggles and the mask.’
Trump has been reluctant to be photographed wearing a face covering and is reported to have said it would send the wrong message as he pushes to get the country focused on reopening from the coronavirus pandemic, which has infected more than 1.58 million Americans and killed almost 100,000.
He was finally photographed wearing a face covering backstage as Ford, the executive chairman of the firm founded by his great-grandfather Henry Ford, showed him three Ford GTs during a private tour.
But when he was in public, he brandished the mask with the presidential seal without putting it on, and posed with a face visor which he did not wear either. Also not wearing a mask was his press secretary Kayleigh McEnany and chief of staff Mark Meadows.
After the tour, Ford Motor Company put out a statement from its executive chairman, saying the president was asked to wear a mask. The state attorney general also has threatened legal action against Ford if Trump did not wear a face covering during his tour.
‘Bill Ford encouraged President Trump to wear a mask when he arrived. He wore a mask during a private viewing of three Ford GTs from over the years. The president later removed the mask for the remainder of the visit,’ the company said.
Michigan attorney general Dana Nessel told CNN: ‘He is a petulant child who refuses to follow the rules. This is not a joke.’
Michigan requires people to wear some type of face covering in public enclosed spaces thanks to an executive order signed by Governor Gretchen Whitmer at the end of April. There are no fines for violating the order but stores can refuse to serve those without the coverings.
‘Honestly, if he fails to wear a mask, he’s going to be asked not to return to any enclosed facility inside our state,’ Dana Nessel, a Democrat, had told CNN before he went there.
She returned to the network after his public defiance and said: ‘This is no joke. He is in a county right now where over 100 people died. He is conveying the worst possible message to people who cannot afford to be on the receiving end of misinformation.
Nessel said she would consider bringing charges against Ford for failing to get him to cover up, although she spoke before the backstage picture leaked out.
‘We’re going to have to have a very serious conversation with Ford in the event that they let the president in publicly-enclosed spaces defy that order,’ she said.
‘The last thing we want to see is for this plant to close its doors again because somebody was infected by the president.’
Trump said he didn’t have to wear a mask because he’s been tested for the coronavirus and was tested again that morning. The mask prevents someone with the illness from transmitting it.
He did say the mask looked good on him when he wore it backstage.
‘It was very nice. It looked very nice,’ he said of his wearing the mask out of public view.
He said he didn’t wear one during the public portion of his factory tour – despite Michigan’s requirement – because ‘I was given a choice.’ The Ford Motor Company executives guiding him through the factory wore masks.
Bill Ford, the Executive Chairman of Ford Motor Company, who accompanied Trump on the tour, told the reporters traveling with Trump that it was the president’s ‘choice’ to wear a mask or not.
Asked if he should be wearing a mask to set an example, Trump said: ‘I think it sets an example both ways. As they say, I did have it on.’
During the visit, Trump touted his administration’s efforts to fight the coronavirus in the state.
‘We have done a tremendous job in the state of Michigan, not only in terms of bringing autos back – auto productions – back but also in terms of fighting the virus,’ the president said at a roundtable with African American leaders on how the disease has infected disenfranchised communities.
The group was seated five feet apart at a long table in a closed off area of the Rawsonville Components Plant in Ypsilanti, Michigan. The area was closed off by blue drapes. Behind Trump was a backdrop that read ‘Transition to Greatness,’ the president’s new slogan.
‘You’ll notice at this table we are socially distance,’ Housing Secretary Ben Carson, who traveled with Trump to Michigan, pointed out.
Also at the event were Republican Senate candidate John James and State Representative Karen Whitsett. James wore a mask during the roundtable.
Trump touted Whitsett’s story after she appeared on Fox News to describe how she took hydroxychloroquine and was cured of COVID-19. She’s also met with the president at the White House during an event with people who survived the coronavirus.
Also at the event, Robin Barnes, a real estate agent, said hydroxychloroquine cured her when she had COVID-19.
She told Trump she heard him talking about the anti-malaria drug on television.
‘I was able to call my doctor and say listen hey let’s try this because, you know, this must be what’s going on,’ Barnes noted. She said got a prescription for it and the antibiotic azithromycin, also known as z-pack.
‘I took it at 9:30 in the morning. By four or five o’clock I was breathing good. So it works,’ she said.
‘Thank you for that,’ Trump told her.
The president is taking hydroxychloroquine as a preventative measure against exposure to the coronavirus. He said he is finishing up his course of it this week.
During the roundtable, Trump offered his support to the state, which is suffering from heavy flooding in the north.
He did not address his previous threat to with hold federal funding after the Michigan secretary of state sent absentee ballot applications to all registered voters.
‘I’m not going to discuss that. There are so many forms of funding. What we want is good, straight, honest voting,’ he said.
Trump and other Republicans have claimed, without evidence, that mail in voting increases the chances for voter fraud. The president made that argument again on Thursday and explained why he, himself, votes absentee.
‘Now, if you’re president of the United States and if you vote in Florida, and you can’t be there, you should be able to send in a ballot. If you’re not well, you’re feeling terrible, you’re sick, you have a reasonable excuse – just a reasonable excuse – you should be able to vote by mail in,’ he said.
Trump has never been photographed wearing a face mask. He was not seen wearing a mask when he visited factories in Arizona and Pennsylvania over the past two weeks but he claimed he donned one for a few minutes backstage while at the Honeywell plant in Phoenix on May 5.
Ford has a policy that all visitors must wear personal protective equipment and originally indicated Trump would wear one. But the company later backed down and said the White House has its own protective procedures and will make its own determinations about whether masks will be worn.
Nessel threatened to take legal action against Ford Motors if the president doesn’t wear a face covering.
‘I know that Ford has asked him to do the same thing, but if we know that he’s coming to our state, and we know he’s not going to follow the law, I think we’re going to have to take action against any company or any facility that allows him inside those facilities and puts our workers at risk. We simply can’t afford it here in our state,’ she said.
‘We are just asking that President Trump comply with the law in our state, just as we would make the same request of anyone else in those plants,’ she added, pointing out that an agreement that allowed auto workers to return to the plant included a provision that everyone will wear a mask and observe social distancing policies.
She implored President Trump to think about the cost and work that would go into disinfecting the Rawsonville Components Plant after his visit.
‘We’re asking if President Trump doesn’t care about his own health, doesn’t care about the health and the safety of people who work in those facilities, at least care about the economic situation of, you know, costing these facilities so much money by having to close down and disinfect the plant after he leaves,’ she said.
On Tuesday, a spokesperson for Ford said the company shared its safety policy, which includes a requirement to wear masks, with the White House.
But the company backed down from saying Trump would be required to don a facial covering.
‘The White House has its own safety and testing policies in place and will make its own determination’ about whether Trump and White House officials will wear masks during the visit,’ a spokesperson said.
Trump said Tuesday he’d consider wearing a mask if the situation warranted it.
‘I don’t know, I haven’t even thought of it,’ Trump said. ‘It depends, in certain areas I would, in certain areas I don’t, but, I will certainly look at it. It depends on what situation. Am I standing right next to everybody, or am I spread out. Is something a hospital, is it a ward, what is it exactly? I’m going to a plant.’
‘So we’ll see,’ Trump said. ‘Where it’s appropriate, I would do it, certainly.’
Michigan has had more than 52,000 cases of the coronavirus and more than 5,000 deaths.
Nessel wrote an open letter to Trump on Wednesday, asking him to wear a face mask during his visit, arguing he has a ‘social and moral’ responsibility to do so.
Whitmer has instigated tough measures to try and combat the pandemic. In addition to the face covering policy, she instituted a stay-at-home requirement that remains in effect. Restrictions will start to ease in parts of the state on Friday.
Protesters, however, swarmed the state Capitol in Lansing to object to the shut down.
President Trump has cheered them on.
On Wednesday, the president argued the stay-at-home order should be lifted so residences can help out with flooding in the northern part of the state that has led to two burst dams and 10,000 people being evacuated.
‘We have sent our best Military & @FEMA Teams, already there. Governor must now ‘set you free’ to help. Will be with you soon!,’ he tweeted.
President Trump on Wednesday threatened to with hold unspecified federal funds from Michigan after the secretary of state sent absentee ballot applications to all registered voters.
The state is crucial to the president’s re-election effort. He won it by less than one point in the 2016 election.
Trump declined to specify on Wednesday what laws he said Michigan was breaking when Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson mailed out the applications. Republicans have argued without proof that mail-in ballots increase voter fraud. Democrats claim Republicans are against it because it benefits voting blocs that tend to vote Democratic.
‘Mail-in ballots are a very dangerous thing they’re they’re subject of massive fraud,’ Trump said at an event at the White House with the governors of Kansas and Arkansas.
Trump didn’t get specific on what kind of federal funds might be with held from the state. ‘You’ll be finding out that we finding out very soon if it’s necessary,’ he said. ‘I don’t think it’s going to be necessary.’
Whitmer called the threat ‘scary’ and ‘ridiculous’ given the heavy flooding in Midlands county.
‘We’ve got to evacuate tens of thousands of people who are worried and scared. On top of this global pandemic. And to have this kind of distraction is just ridiculous to be honest. It’s – threatening to take money away from a state that is hurting as bad as we are right now is just scary. And I think something that is unacceptable,’ Whitmer told CBS’ ‘This Morning’ on Thursday ahead of the president’s visit.
The p-resident said previously he put on a mask ‘backstage’ when visiting a Honeywell plant on May 5 in Arizona that was producing N95 masks to help deal with a nationwide PPE shortage due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Trump did not wear a mask when cameras were focused on him.
He did wear safety goggles.
He also didn’t wear a mask when touring a Allentown, Pennsylvania factory last week that was a distribution center for medical supplies and protective gear.