Two days before he tested positive for the novel coronavirus, president mocked rival Joe Biden: "Every time you see him, he's got a mask"

By Virginia Chamlee
October 02, 2020 02:30 PM
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In the months leading up to the announcement that he and his wife tested positive for the novel coronavirus, President Donald Trump was steadfast in his claim that the pandemic would soon be over, openly waffling on the importance of wearing a mask and continuing — even in recent weeks — to host large-scale (sometimes indoor) campaign events despite public health guidelines otherwise.

The news that the president had contracted the infectious disease was even more striking considering the tone he has taken on the coronavirus disease COVID-19.

About two days before the public announcement of his diagnosis, Trump said in the first presidential debate with Joe Biden that he approves of wearing masks, while also making fun of Democrat Joe Biden for wearing one.

“I don’t wear masks like him,” Trump, 74, said.

“Every time you see him, he’s got a mask," the president went on to say, mockingly. "He could be speaking 200 feet away from it, he shows up with the biggest mask I’ve ever seen.”

President Donald Trump departs the White House for New Jersey on Thursday
| Credit: Drew Angerer/Getty

Those remarks were the latest in a long string of vacillations Trump has had regarding face coverings. In April, he said he wouldn't be wearing a mask even as he announced new federal guidelines recommending them.

By July, he had changed his stance, saying, “I’m all for masks ... If I were in a tight situation with people, I would absolutely [wear one].”

By August, he had waffled yet again, calling masks "patriotic" but hedging the statement with: "Maybe they’re great, and maybe they’re just good. Maybe they’re not so good.”

Speaking to Congress in mid September, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention voice staunch support for masks.

"We have clear scientific evidence they work," Robert Redfield said then. "I might even go so far as to say that this face mask is more guaranteed to protect me against COVID than when I take a COVID vaccine, because the immunogenicity may be 70 percent — and if I don't get an immune response, the vaccine's not going to protect me. This face mask will."

President Donald Trump
| Credit: Salwan Georges/The Washington Post via Getty

Trump has also been inconsistent in his public and private messaging regarding the severity of the virus, including misleading the public about the true health threat.

In January, he publicly said that the virus was "totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China, and we have it under control. It’s going to be just fine.”

Privately, though, he was taking a more somber tone. In early February, Trump told reporter Bob Woodward that coronavirus was "deadly stuff" and would likely prove to be a "tricky situation." Tapes of that conversation were publicly released in September.

In late February, in a meeting at the White House, the president said of the virus: “It’s going to disappear. One day — it’s like a miracle — it will disappear.”

And in March, when asked if he was concerned that the virus would make its way to the White House, Trump said he was "not concerned at all."

Later in March, however, as much of the country began to shut down to slow the virus, the president became sharply — briefly — more serious and compared himself to a wartime commander-in-chief and the illness to an invader.

In the six months since, he has gone back and forth. In June, he told Fox News' Sean Hannity that "even without" a vaccine and treatments, which he insisted then were almost ready for use, "it's fading away, it's going to fade away."

Less than two weeks ago, Trump said the virus "affects virtually nobody" despite more than 200,000 dead in the U.S.

In a Friday interview with Fox & Friends, the moderator of the first Trump-Biden debate — news anchor Chris Wallace — said the announcement of Trump's diagnosis would surely "raise questions again about how seriously the president has taken the coronavirus."

White House physician Sean Conley said in a memo sent to reporters early Friday that both Trump and First Lady Melania Trump had tested positive for COVID-19 but said he expected the president "to continue carrying out his duties without disruption while recovering."

It was unclear where the president and first lady got sick, though senior White House adviser Hope Hicks also tested positive and had recently traveled with them.

The White House chief of staff told reporters on Friday that the president was showing "mild symptoms" but was still at work. He declined to detail the treatment plan.

The news that Trump has tested positive is likely to have significant implications for his presidential campaign in the final weeks leading up to the Nov. 3 election.