Donald Trump Wore a Mask on Factory Tour — but Away from the Cameras to Spite the Press, He Said

"I did not want to give the press the pleasure of seeing it," said the president

Donald Trump
President Donald Trump (left) speaks as he tours Ford's Rawsonville Components plant that has been converted to making personal protection and medical equipment in Ypsilanti, Michigan, on Thursday. Photo: Alex Brandon/AP/Shutterstock

Donald Trump is sticking to his no-mask sentiment — at least publicly — even as health officials recommend face coverings for everyone during the novel coronavirus pandemic and various officials ask that he wear them.

On Thursday the president, 73, made a visit to Ypsilanti, Michigan, to tour a Ford Motor Company factory that has been reoptimized to produce ventilators and mask to help combat the spread of the coronavirus.

Trump opted against donning a mask in public view, though other members of the touring group wore face coverings for the duration.

According to the Associated Press, however, he said he did wear a mask during parts of the tour that were closed to media, which Ford officials also confirmed. A photo soon surfaced of the president in a mask out of view of reporters.

"I did not want to give the press the pleasure of seeing it,” he said. (He has repeatedly criticized news outlets as the "enemy of the people" for what he considers negative and unfair coverage and bristled at questions about his coronavirus strategy.)

Ford Motor's executive chairman, Bill Ford, "encouraged President Trump to wear a mask when he arrived" and Trump "wore a mask during a private viewing of three Ford GTs from over the years," the company said in a statement. "The president later removed the mask for the remainder of the visit."

In an open letter to the president ahead of the trip, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said that he should wear a mask, citing the state's laws, which aim to reduce the spread of the virus.

"It is not just the policy of Ford, by virtue of the Governor's Executive Orders. It is currently the law of this State," read the letter. "... We must all do our part to stop the spread of COVID-19. Anyone who has potentially been recently exposed, including the President of the United States, has not only a legal responsibility, but also a social and moral responsibility, to take reasonable precautions to prevent further spread of the virus."

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer told MSNBC that Trump’s no-mask choice "wasn’t surprising but it was disappointing," explaining that those in the spotlight have "a responsibility to make sure that they model precisely what we’re asking everyone else to do."

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Donald Trump
President Donald Trump tours the Ford Rawsonville Plant, in Ypsilanti, Michigan, on May 21, 2020. BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty

Responding to the controversy on Twitter on Thursday night, Trump called Nessel a "Wacky Do Nothing Attorney General" who was "viciously threatening Ford Motor Company for the fact that I inspected a Ventilator plant without a mask."

"Not their fault, & I did put on a mask," he wrote. "No wonder many auto companies left Michigan, until I came along!"

Nessel tweeted in turn that she was "impressed you know my name."

"Seems like you have a problem with all 3 women who run MI-as well as your ability to tell the truth," she wrote back to Trump. "The auto industry has been thriving for years bc of our incredible auto workers & companies."

Trump has repeatedly criticized Michigan's leading officials, who are Democrats, adding a layer of partisanship to his choice not to wear masks in public, against the advice of health officials.

(Vice President Mike Pence similarly declined to wear a mask to a Mayo Clinic in Minnesota but acknowledged he should have after widespread backlash, and he has been seen with a mask on subsequent trips.)

According to data compiled by The New York Times, Michigan had 53,468 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 5,129 deaths as of Friday morning.

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Earlier this month, Trump made a visit to a facility in Arizona that was working to manufacture masks, but he did not wear a face covering. He did wear protective goggles during that trip, as he did again during his factory tour on Thursday.

In April, when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that people wear masks to help reduce the spread of the coronavirus, Trump said in a press conference that he still wouldn't wear one in public.

A week later, First Lady Melania Trump appeared in a series of PSAs in which she stressed the importance of wearing protective masks in public and continuing to social distance.

The president has repeatedly noted he is tested often for the virus and is negative.

Asked by reporters Thursday about why Trump wasn't wearing a mask, a Ford official said, "It's his choice."

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