Experts say widespread mask use could significantly curb the COVID-19 pandemic.
Donald Trump last week asked all Americans to wear a mask to help curb the spread of the coronavirus. But contrary to a claim by his press secretary that he has been consistent in his messaging about masks, his words and actions regarding them have been all over the place for months.
On Friday, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany was asked why, after months of expert recommendations that people wear face masks in public, Trump had changed his tone and started recommending it.
"There has been no change," McEnany claimed. Noting that he had said on March 31 that wearing a mask was harmless and optional, she said that "the President has been consistent on this. He wore a mask back at the Ford facility. He carries it around in his pocket. He showed it to you multiple times. He hasn’t changed."
But in reality, sometimes Trump has suggested face mask use is helpful; sometimes he's called it a "double-edged sword." Sometimes he has dismissed wearing masks as merely "politically correct." Once he suggested people may wear them only to spite him. He has bragged about both wearing and not wearing one.
Here is a partial rundown of what he has said and done since the CDC recommended mask use in early April:
April 3: Trump told reporters that despite the "voluntary" guidance urging people to wear masks, "I don't think that I'm going to be doing it." He said, "Somehow, sitting in the Oval Office behind that beautiful Resolute Desk, the great Resolute Desk, I think wearing a face mask as I greet presidents, prime ministers, dictators, kings, queens, I don't know." He added that he might change his mind, but hoped the pandemic would "pass very quickly."
April 24: Trump encouraged a reporter to take off a face mask to ask a question, saying the person sitting in front of her was "not worried."
April 30: Trump told reporters he would consider wearing a mask on his upcoming Arizona trip depending on the "climate," saying, "I'd have no problem wearing a mask. I don't know. I'm supposed to make a speech. I just don't know: Should I speak in a mask? You're going to have to tell me if that's politically correct. I don't know. If it is, I'll speak in a mask."
May 6: Asked why he did not wear a mask on his trip to Arizona, Trump told reporters he "had a mask on for a period of time" earlier, but "not too long." Asked whether wearing a mask during the public portion of his trip would have sent a better message, Trump responded, "There is nothing I can do to satisfy the media, the Democrats, or the fake news, and I understand that."
May 7: The Associated Press reported that Trump told advisers wearing a mask in public would "send the wrong message" as he pushed to quickly reopen the economy, and said he would look ridiculous wearing one in campaign attack ads.
May 11: Trump told reporters that Americans had "learned about face masks — the good and the bad, by the way. It's not a one-sided thing, believe it or not."
May 15: Trump demanded a reporter remove their mask to ask him a question, saying, "You're going to have to remove it. You can't hear through your mask."
May 21: Trump told reporters prior to a visit to a Michigan Ford plant that he did not know if he'd wear a mask because he wanted the country to go "back to normal" and to "normalize" things. After opting not to wear a mask in public during the visit, he told reporters he had worn one "in this back area" but "didn't want to give the press the pleasure of seeing it."
May 26: Trump asked a reporter to remove his mask while asking a question, responding when the reporter said he'd speak louder instead, "Oh okay, you want to be politically correct."
June 5: After Trump's maskless tour of a coronavirus swab factory in Maine, the company said it would discard all of the swabs made during his visit.
June 17: Trump told the Wall Street Journal, "Masks are a double-edge sword. People touch them. And they grab them and I see it all the time. They come in, they take the mask. Now they're holding it now in their fingers. And they drop it on the desk and then they touch their eye and they touch their nose." Asked if Americans wear masks to show their disapproval of him, Trump answered, "It could be, yeah. It could be."
June 19: Trump told Axios as well that masks are "a double-edged sword." Asked if he would recommend them at his upcoming rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, he answered, "I recommend people do what they want," adding, "If people want to wear masks I think that's great. I won't be. Not as a protest but I don't feel that I'm in danger."
July 1: Trump bragged on Fox Business News that he had liked the way he looked in a mask. "I thought it was OK. It was a dark black mask, and I thought it looked OK. Looked like the Lone Ranger. But, no, I have no problem with that. I think — and if people feel good about it, they should do it," he said.
July 9: Trump said in a Fox News interview that he didn't need a mask because everyone around him is tested, but that he'd wear one in a hospital. He then mocked Joe Biden's mask use, saying that "he feels it's good. And I'm OK with it, if he wants to do that. He's got the largest mask I think I have ever seen. It covers up a big proportion of his face."
July 11: Trump was photographed wearing a mask on a visit to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. "I've never been against masks, but I do believe they have a time and a place," he told reporters.
July 14: Asked by CBS News if he would tell Americans to wear a mask, Trump replied, "I would have no problem with that, but what I really do is, I will say follow the guidelines because the guidelines say exactly that. The guidelines didn't used to say that. And by the way, governors didn't used to say that. You know, we're running a really amazing operation."
July 15: Trump did not wear a mask during an appearance at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta, ignoring city requirements. The White House later falsely said that Trump was following CDC recommendations.
July 19: Trump told Fox News he opposed a national mask mandate, saying, "I want people to have a certain freedom, and I don't believe in that. No, and I don't agree with the statement that if everybody wore a mask everything disappears." He claimed that "masks cause problems, too," but added, "I'm a believer in masks. I think masks are good."
July 20: Trump tweeted a photo of himself wearing a mask at Walter Reed, used a racist term to describe the coronavirus, and bragged that "many people say that it is Patriotic to wear a face mask when you can't socially distance. There is nobody more Patriotic than me, your favorite President!"
July 20: Trump appeared at a campaign fundraiser at his hotel with no mask, just hours after his tweet.
July 21: Trump said at a press briefing, "America's youth will act responsibly, and we're asking everybody that when you are not able to socially distance, wear a mask, get a mask. Whether you like the mask or not, they have an impact. They'll have an effect. And we need everything we can get."
July 22: Trump told Fox News that while he "felt very comfortable wearing the mask" during his visit to Walter Reed, he did not "feel comfortable" wearing them "in other settings." Still, he urged others to wear them: "My attitude is, it probably helps. Give it a shot, because we have to win this thing. So, it's not a question of pride. It's not a question of anything. We have to win this. So, when you're in a certain situation, I think you should wear a mask."
July 23: At a press briefing, Trump said, "And we ask all Americans to exercise vigilance, practice social distancing, wear a mask, do whatever is necessary so we get rid of this horrible situation — this horrible disease that was sent to us by China."
July 23: Trump said on Fox News that, despite early expert advice not to wear masks, "all of a sudden, it was a big thing to get masks because I'm all for it. Look, whatever is going to help, if it was a five percent chance, a two percent chance, wear it. And I will wear it. I wore it at Walter Reed Hospital the other day."
July 25: The White House released a photo of Trump inches from retired football player Brett Favre. Neither was wearing a mask.
Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention appointed by Trump, said earlier this month that face coverings could be a huge part of curbing the spread of the virus. "If all of us would put on a face covering now for the next four weeks, six weeks, we could drive this epidemic to the ground," he told reporters.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.