Donald Trump appears to have opened up to the prospect of wearing a face mask, endorsing the idea that Americans should cover their faces to prevent the spread of coronavirus – despite widespread hatred for masks among his base, some of whom have spread conspiracy theories and wild judgements about the risks of using them.
In an interview with Fox Business, Mr Trump stopped short of endorsing mandatory mask-wearing, as has been introduced in some jurisdictions and backed by politicians including house speaker Nancy Pelosi. However, he was noticeably warmer toward face coverings than many of his conservative allies.
“I don't know if you need mandatory, because you have many places in the country where people stay very long distance. You talk about social distancing. But I'm all for masks, I think masks are good.”
Asked to clarify if he would wear one, the president did not pause.
“I would. Oh, I have. I mean, people have seen me wearing one. If I'm in a group of people where we're not, you know, 10 feet away, and -- but, usually, I'm not in that position. And everyone's tested. Because I'm the president, they get tested before they see me.”
Mr Trump’s musings come as several key Republican leaders are newly endorsing face coverings, some with urgency. Among them are the Republican governors of states such as Arizona, which is seeing one of the worst new coronavirus surges, and Georgia, one of the first states to begin reopening and the site of another concerning uptick.
Mr Trump is known to have worn a mask on more than one occasion, including during a visit to a Ford plant in Ypsilanti, Michigan in May, but he has not yet worn a mask in public view, which critics say counts as declining to set a vital example about when they should be used and by whom.
At the Ford plant, he took the mask off when in front of the cameras, saying he “didn’t want to give the press the pleasure of seeing it”.
President Trump wears a mask during his tour of the Ford Rawsonville Components Plant in Ypsilanti, Michigan, where ventilators, masks and other medical supplies are being manufactured. https://t.co/9m61hRzZU4
📷 Anonymous pic.twitter.com/zoLI3MXsp1— NBC Politics (@NBCPolitics)May 22, 2020
However, in the Fox Business interview, he said the idea of wearing one in public wasn’t a worry.
“I mean I’d have no problem, actually I had a mask on, I sorta liked the way I looked, okay, I thought it was okay. It was a dark black mask and I thought it looked okay. Looked like the Lone Ranger. But I have no problem with that, and if people feel good about it they should do it.”
The Lone Ranger’s signature mask covered the character’s eyes, not his nose and mouth.
In the same interview, Mr Trump also said the virus is “going to sort of just disappear” – a prediction he has periodically reissued since the first cases appeared in the US at the start of the year. As he was speaking, the US saw its highest number of confirmed new cases in a single day.