US President Donald Trump on Monday took to social media to post an image of himself wearing a face mask and indirectly called the act “patriotic” — a clear pivot away from his earlier reluctance to wear a facial covering in public.
“We are United in our effort to defeat the Invisible China Virus, and many people say that it is Patriotic to wear a face mask when you can’t socially distance,” the President wrote on Twitter with a photo of himself wearing a Covid mask– nearly three months after the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended wearing masks in public.
“There is nobody more Patriotic than me, your favourite President!” he added.
The image shows Trump wearing a mask with a presidential seal during his visit to Walter Reed National Military Medical Centre earlier this month — his first and only time so far donning a facial covering in public after months of refusing to be seen doing so in public amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The shift to encouraging mask-wearing was primarily motivated by floundering poll numbers, a source close to the President told CNN.
For months, aides tried to get Trump to wear a mask, saying they could have “MAGA”, “Trump-Pence 2020” or even the American flag printed on them. But he steadfastly refused and only wore a mask once in public.
But it wasn’t until a meeting with campaign aides at the White House last week, where aides bluntly told him even internal numbers showed Americans did not approve of his response to the contagious outbreak, according to an official who attended that meeting.
Trump’s agreement to don a mask in public at Walter Reed came after heavy “pleading” by aides, according to a presidential adviser, who urged the President to set an example for his supporters by wearing a mask on the visit.
On a trip to a Ford plant in May, for example, Trump said he wore a mask on parts of the plant tour where reporters were not allowed, saying he “didn’t want to give the press the pleasure of seeing it.”
But as the number of coronavirus cases grew across several states, more Republicans publicly endorsed mask-wearing in an attempt to depoliticise it as well as ramping up efforts to convince the President to support wearing a mask.
Earlier in the spring, Trump had mocked Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden for wearing a mask, and during a press briefing in April, he suggested that it wouldn’t seem presidential.
“(S)omehow sitting in the Oval Office behind that beautiful Resolute Desk … I think wearing a face mask as I greet presidents, prime ministers, dictators, kings, queens. I don’t know, somehow I don’t see it for myself. Maybe I’ll change my mind,” Trump had said then.