President Donald Trump on Thursday did not wear a mask for coronavirus protection while touring a Ford Motor Co. plant in Michigan, despite a state law and company policy requiring facial coverings there.
Trump, who has consistently refused to wear a mask in public, was visiting Ford’s Rawsonville Components Plant in Ypsilanti, which has a policy of requiring masks there. The plant is currently making ventilators in response to the Covid-19 pandemic in the United States.
Video showed Trump on the factory floor talking to Ford executives who were wearing masks.
“Not necessary,” Trump said, when a reporter asked why he was not wearing a facial covering.
“Everybody’s been tested and I’ve been tested.”
Trump also claimed “I had one [a mask] on before,” in an area that was not visible to reporters, but added: “I didn’t want to give the press the pleasure of seeing it.”
“I was given a choice, and I had one on in an area where they preferred it,” Trump said, referring to Ford executives.
When Ford’s executive chairman William Ford Jr. was asked “can you confirm the president was told it is ok not to wear a mask in this area,” Ford shrugged and said, “It’s up to him!”
President Donald Trump holds a mask as he speaks during a tour of the Ford Rawsonville Plant in Ypsilanti, Michigan on May 21, 2020.
Brendan Smialowski | AFP | Getty Images
Both William Ford and CEO Bill Hackett each were wearing masks during the vist to the factory floor.
The president’s tour occurred despite an executive order signed earlier this week by Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer that prohibits nonessential visits to manufacturing facilities in the state to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel on Wednesday said that while she would not seek to block Trump’s visit, he had a “legal responsibility” under state law to wear a mask when he visited the plant.
“I ask that while you are on tour you respect the great efforts of the men and women at Ford — and across this state — by wearing a facial covering,” Nessel wrote in an open letter to the president.
One Tuesday, Ford Motor told media outlets that it had a policy of requiring masks there and that the company had informed the White House about that policy.
But the company also said that day “The White House has its own safety and testing policies in place and will make its own determination” about whether Trump and his party will wear masks during the visit.
Ford twice this week briefly shuttered plants elsewhere after three workers tested positive for the coronavirus.
When Trump was asked at the White House earlier Thursday if he would wear a mask when he visited the Ford factory, he had said, “I don’t know, we’re going to look at it”
Ford Motor Company CEO Jim Hackett (L) speaks with US President Donald Trump as they toursthe Ford Rawsonville Plant in Ypsilanti, Michigan on May 21, 2020.
Brendan Smialowski | AFP | Getty Images
But Nessel, in her letter to Trump, wrote that the mask requirement “is not just the policy of Ford, by virtue of the Governor’s Executive Orders. It is currently the law of this State.”
She also wrote, “Anyone who has potentially been recently exposed, including the President of the United States, has not only a legal responsibility, but also a social and moral responsibility, to take reasonable precautions to prevent further spread of the virus.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., during an interview on MSNBC’s “Lawrence O’Donnell Show” on Wednesday, criticized Trump for not wearing a mask while in public.
“I also am concerned the example that is not being set for the rest of the county, and I’m concerned about those lives because while the president and the vice president may consider it not in their interest to wear a mask, they have doctors around them all the time who can tend to their needs at any given moment,” Pelosi said.
“But most of the American people who might follow their lead do not have that same opportunity.”
Rep. Debbie Dingell, a Democrat whose Michigan district includes the factory that Ford visited, said Thursday during an interview on MSNBC, “Mr. President, I just hope you’ll wear that mask so people know that it’s important, and your wearing that mask can save lives.”
Trump has refused to wear a mask during the coronavirus outbreak, even after two White House staffers, including his personal valet, tested positive for Covid-19.
In April, federal health officials issued guidance encouraging all Americans to wear a facial covering when in public and when unable to maintain a six-foot distance from other people.
White House staffers last week were told that they must wear masks or facial coverings when entering the West Wing of that building.
Earlier this month, Trump did not wear a mask during a visit to a Honeywell factory in Phoenix that is making masks for the federal government. A sign at that factory says that masks are required for people there.
Vice President Mike Pence in April did not wear a mask while touring the Mayo Clinic health facility in Minnesota, despite a policy there requiring everyone to do so.
Days later, Pence wore a mask when visiting a General Motors ventilator factory in Indiana, which likewise requires facial coverings.
This is breaking news. Check back for updates.