"Putting the mask on — no makeup — was about signaling how important this is for everyone to do," says an aide, as Clinton this week urged people to register and talked her "surreal" time while social distancing

By Adam Carlson and Sandra Sobieraj Westfall
May 28, 2020 06:31 PM
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Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
courtesy Hilary Clinton

Hillary Clinton made an attention-grabbing change to her Twitter profile this week: Swapping her photo for a scrubbed-down shot of her wearing a face mask with a four-letter, all-caps message — "VOTE."

"This time more than any other time, we have to turn out. … Get everybody you can registered to vote. There are lots of ways to reach out. This is going to be labor-intensive, but there’s no other way to do it," Clinton, 72, said in a Wednesday conversation with Lisa Ling.

The former secretary of state, who narrowly lost the 2016 presidential election to Donald Trump, was also rebuking his novel coronavirus pandemic strategy with the new photo, says a source.

"Trump gave people very bad advice about this early on, so we’re all paying catch up," a Clinton aide contends. "So putting the mask on — no makeup — was about signaling how important this is for everyone to do."

The photo, the Clinton source says, was taken by a longtime aide who helps at the home. The mask she wore, by Resistance by Design, was sent to her by a friend.

Since April the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended people wear face coverings in public where social distancing is difficult, such as stores or crowded areas, given how the coronavirus is spread.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country's leading infectious disease expert and a member of the White House coronavirus task force, said this week that mask-wearing shows "respect for another person."

"I want to protect myself and protect others," Fauci said on Wednesday, "and also because I want to make it be a symbol for people to see that that's the kind of thing you should be doing." First Lady Melania Trump has also endorsed face coverings.

Despite this, the president has declined to wear a mask in public view and he jabbed at former Vice President Joe Biden earlier this week for wearing one during a Memorial Day appearance.

During a tour of a Ford factory last week, Trump wore one privately, saying, "I think I looked better in the mask" — but he took it off in front of cameras, saying he didn't reporters to see.

From left: President Donald Trump and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
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Clinton has not been shy about criticizing the Trump administration since her loss. Trump and his allies, in turn, have derided her as a sore loser.

This week she described the administration's heavily scrutinized pandemic response as inconsistent and inept, but she praised local lawmakers.

Her Onward Together group has also launched an effort to expand voting by mail given the pandemic. (Trump has criticized such efforts, claiming without evidence that they promote widespread fraud.)

"I’m grateful that we’re beginning to see some possible plateauing of the infection rate. I hope it stays that way," Clinton told Ling on Wednesday. "Despite the ineptitude and inconsistency of our federal leadership, a lot of governors and mayors — on both sides of the aisle are doing great work in protecting the people they represent.”

The Clinton source says that while in isolation, like much of the rest of the country, she has been spending time on (masked) walks with former President Bill Clinton, gardening with her grandchildren ("harvesting things like lettuce and snap peas") and reading — "Louise Penny for escape and she loved Lincoln on the Verge by Ted Widmer, about the 13 day train ride Lincoln took to Washington from Springfield in 1861."

Speaking with Ling, the former first lady said, this time of quarantine had been "surreal."

“It’s maddening for me, being on the sidelines and watching what is going on," she said. "But I am very proud of a lot of the frontline workers and the people who are helping their fellow men women and children.”

She also had this message about her former rival: "I look at Trump’s campaign and he cannot win if every American eligible to vote takes their vote seriously and shows up."