Campaign spokesman says Trump has ‘led’ on mask-wearing

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Trump campaign spokesman Hogan Gidley insisted Tuesday morning that President Trump has “led” on the issue of mask-wearing, defending Trump amid criticism after the president removed his mask at the White House while infected with the novel coronavirus Monday evening.

“This president has led on the issue at every single turn and right now is no different,” Gidley said Tuesday on Fox News when asked whether Trump’s messaging on health precautions would change after battling the virus himself. “He pulled out a mask at the debate and said, ‘Here, I have mine, I wear mine, we socially distance inside the White House.’ ”

Gidley also insisted that Trump was talking about mask-wearing in late March and that he was present when administration health officials announced updated guidance encouraging all Americans to use masks to prevent the spread of the virus. He took issue with the media coverage of Trump’s rhetoric on mask usage.

Gidley also noted that the science on masks has shifted; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced the new guidance in April after evidence showed masks were key to preventing the asymptomatic spread of the virus.

Trump wore a face covering for the first time and called mask use “patriotic” in July, after weeks of declining to wear one in public. The president has also seemed to question the efficacy of masks and poked fun at Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden for frequently wearing a mask in public, including most recently during the presidential debate last week.

“When needed, I wear masks. I don’t wear masks like him,” Trump said during last Tuesday’s debate, gesturing to Biden. “Every time you see him he’s got a mask. He could be speaking 200 feet away and he shows up with the biggest mask I have ever seen.”

Trump has also ignored other public health guidelines during the pandemic, staging campaign rallies with crowds of people who are not required to physically distance or wear masks. Health experts have criticized the events, noting they could encourage the spread of the virus.

Trump, who was diagnosed with coronavirus last Thursday evening, wore a mask upon leaving Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Monday to return to the White House, where he will continue his treatment for the virus. Trump walked up the steps to the residence to the Truman Balcony and took his mask off as he stood there, while journalists and photographers were gathered below him and a photographer was seen behind him on the balcony. Trump then filmed a video of himself telling Americans not to fear the coronavirus or allow it to “dominate” their lives.

Asked whether there are concerns with the message the president is sending, Gidley insisted on Fox News there was nothing unsafe about Trump’s behavior.

“The president is alone, on the balcony, outside. and he takes his mask off,” Gidley said. “Flip over a couple of channels. Take a look at MSNBC. Joe Biden is sitting there without a mask next to Lester Holt without a mask. It is absolutely ridiculous to hear the media to apoplectic over this.”

Fox News host Sandra Smith interjected to note that Trump was still shedding the virus. Biden, who shared a debate stage with the president last Tuesday, has tested negative for COVID-19 three times since learning that Trump had been infected. Biden participated in an NBC News town hall with Holt on Monday evening.

–Updated at 11:53 a.m.

Tags 2020 presidential campaign Coronavirus COVID-19 Donald Trump Joe Biden Trump positive test

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