President Donald Trump traveled on Thursday to the crucial U.S. election battleground state of Michigan to visit a Ford Motor Co plant amid tensions with its Democratic governor during the coronavirus pandemic, opting not to wear a protective face mask for the cameras.
REPORTER: "Are you going to wear a mask today at the Ford plant?
TRUMP: "Well, I don't know.
We're going to look at it.
A lot of people have asked me that question." The nagging question ahead of President Donald Trump's trip to the crucial election battleground state of Michigan on Thursday was whether or not he'd wear a protective face mask.
First, to a meeting with African-American leaders to discuss vulnerable populations hit by the coronavirus pandemic.
"Very exciting being here." Then, to a Ford Motor plant that's been recast to produce ventilators and PPE.
And as he did at similar facilities in Arizona and Pennsylvania, the president unsurprisingly opted not to wear a mask in front of cameras.
UNKNOWN REPORTER: "Mr. President there was a lot of interest about whether you would end up wearing a mask today.
Could you just take us through your thought process of why you decided not to wear a mask?
TRUMP: "Well, I did wear.
I had one on before.
I wore one in this back area, but I didn't want to give the press the pleasure of seeing it.
But, no, I had it in the back area.
I did put a, uh, mask on." REUTERS REPORTER JEFF MASON: "Why would you not be wearing it here, sir?" TRUMP: "Not necessary here.
Everybody's been tested and I've been tested.
In fact, I was tested this morning.
So it's not necessary." REUTERS REPORTER JEFF MASON: "But the executives are wearing them." TRUMP: "Well, that's their choice." UNKNOWN REPORTER: "What about the example that it would set for other Americans..." TRUMP: "Well, I think it sets an example.
I think it sets an example both ways and, as they say, I did have it on." The president even pulled out a mask to prove he had one, but didn't put it on.
TRUMP: "Here is my mask.
I liked it very much.
I actually... honestly, I think I look better in the mask.
I really did.
I look better in the mask.
But I'm making a, uh... but I'm making a speech, so I won't have it now.
But I did have it on right here, and I think some of you may have gotten a shot.
Thank you very much." REUTERS REPORTER JEFF MASON: Mr. Ford, can you confirm that the president was told it's okay not to wear one in this area?
BILL FORD: "It's up to him." Before his visit, Michigan's attorney general said if Trump didn't wear a mask during the tour of the Ford plant, he'd be asked not to return to similar facilities.
Michigan's Democratic governor, Gretchen Whitmer, who has been a target of Trump - even encouraging anti-lockdown protests against her - moved to further reopen Michigan's economy on Thursday through a series of executive orders.
On Wednesday, Trump threatened to withhold federal funding from her state - which has been hit by devastating floods - because of a plan to expand mail-in voting, but later appeared to back off the threat.
"I don't think it's going to be necessary." At the Ford plant, Trump also said he would not close the country if the U.S. is hit by a second wave of coronavirus infections.
"We're going to put out the fires.
We're not going to close the country.
We're going to put out the fires." And the president said he wants to stage campaign rallies at outdoor sites until the pandemic settles down.
With little more than five months left until the election, Trump is behind Democratic rival Joe Biden in national polls and in some battleground states, including Michigan, which he won in 2016.
"We got to get back to the rallies." A senior campaign official said Trump was "chomping at the bit to resume the rallies,” adding that the campaign was aiming to hold a rally as early as mid-June.