Though he did briefly start wearing a mask a number of months into a pandemic he hasn’t exactly helped slow down, President Donald J. Trump has mostly been seen without one. He rarely wears them, mocks those that do (like Joe Biden), and even when he does get involved with masks there are unintended creepy results. On Labor Day, when deaths by COVID-19 approached 190,000, Trump snapped at a reporter he had trouble understanding, telling him to take off his mask. It did not go well.
As per Deadline, the president forced reporters to work on Labor Day, holding a press conference in which he spent part of the time railing against the Atlantic article that claims he called U.S. veterans “losers” and “suckers.” While he was being asked about it by Reuters journalist Jeff Mason, Trump interrupted him. He was a bit muffled, Trump told him, thanks to the mask he was wearing in an indoor room filled with people. So Trump asked him to remove it. Mason didn’t, offering instead to speak louder. When Mason asked Trump if that was better, he replied with an annoyed affirmative.
WATCH: President Trump told Reuters reporter Jeff Mason to take off his mask at a White House press conference, saying he was "very muffled." Mason refused and said he would just speak louder https://t.co/Nj065CIsxp pic.twitter.com/MfrsjkXaeL
— CBS News (@CBSNews) September 7, 2020
Given Trump’s, shall we say, checkered history with masks, the exchange did not go over well with those on social media.
Mask shaming is pretty much the opposite of leadership. pic.twitter.com/33yDTZj2ZR
— Justin Wolfers (@JustinWolfers) September 8, 2020
It’s a reporter modeling pandemic behavior for…the president. https://t.co/vZESqXW5rx
— Michael Barbaro (@mikiebarb) September 8, 2020
Others pointed out that his chief rival in the 2020 election has no problem being a role model when it comes to one of the best ways to stop the spread of a highly contagious virus.
Joe Biden wearing a mask is called leadership. Him not arguing with people to take off their masks is called leadership. Period.
— Ricky Davila (@TheRickyDavila) September 8, 2020
I prefer Presidents who wear a mask around others and don't try to bully reporters into taking theirs off. pic.twitter.com/iKcBfDoBCO
— BrooklynDad_Defiant! (@mmpadellan) September 8, 2020
Others praised Mason for remaining steadfast — yet another reporter who’s kept their cool when bullied by a notoriously tetchy president.
— Planet Belfast – Save lives – Wear a mask 🌈 🇪🇺 (@Planet_Belfast) September 8, 2020
It’s worth noting another thing Trump said during the same press conference: He made sure to praise a reporter who did take off their mask, which is not something one should do.
"You sound so clear, as opposed to everybody else where they refuse" — Trump praises a reporter for not wearing a mask pic.twitter.com/AA8pz6v4ob
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) September 7, 2020
But what did Mason wind up asking Trump? Once they had finally gotten over the hump, he brought up the fact that some people are having trouble believing his denial of the Atlantic story, especially since he’d made similar comments about another veteran, the late John McCain.
Trump said he didn’t understand people who believed that, saying, “I have always been on the opposite side of John McCain. John McCain liked wars. I will be a better warrior than anybody, but when we fight a war, we’re gonna win ’em.” He added, “The story is a hoax,” which was “written by a guy who’s got a tremendously bad history.” He didn’t go into specifics, and he didn’t actually say anything about his history of demeaning American soldiers like McCain.