At a politically-charged Labor Day news conference at the White House’s North Portico, President Donald Trump repeatedly demanded that Reuters reporter Jeff Mason take off his protective mask before he asked a question.
Mason declined, instead speaking louder. Trump later referred back to the exchange, joking with another reporter, “You sound so clear!”
During the news conference, Trump largely defended his administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic which, as of September 7, has claimed nearly 190,000 American lives, and attacked his general election opponents, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.
Here’s what you need to know:
When Mason Began Asking Trump About His Reported Comments on Veterans, Trump Told Him, ‘You’re Going to Have to Take That Off’; Mason Refused
After touting new jobs numbers amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and attacking at length Biden and Harris, Trump began to take questions from reporters attending the news conference.
Reuters’ Jeff Mason, who was wearing a protective mask, per CDC guidelines, started to ask Trump about the blockbuster Atlantic report of him disparaging veterans and soldiers who died during foreign wars. It did not go well.
“You’re going to have to take that off, please,” Trump interrupted. “You can take it off. How many feet are you away?”
Mason replied, “I’ll just speak a lot louder,” but Trump wasn’t having it.
“Well, if you don’t, you’re very muffled. So if you would take it off, it would be a lot easier,” he said.
“I’ll speak a lot louder,” Mason said, raising his voice. “Is that better?”
Trump gave an audible sigh. “It’s … better,” he said. “It’s better, yeah.”
Mason did not reference the exchange in his multiple tweets documenting the news conference, instead focusing on Trump’s attacks on the media and insult of Biden as a “stupid person.”
Trump later took a question from another reporter and made quipped, “You sound so clear, as opposed to everybody else where they refused,” as the (apparently maskless) reporter began speaking.
Mason Received Kudos For Refusing to Remove His Mask & Bloomberg’s Josh Wingrove Said the Incident Was Another Example of Trump Retreating From a Pro-Mask Public Face
A number of journalists and politicos gave Mason digital plaudits for not taking his mask off when Trump demanded it, including the Democratic Coalition’s Scott Dworkin, who said, “Over and over again [Mason] refused. Well done.”
Bloomberg White House reporter Josh Wingrove, meanwhile, connected the incident to Trump and his team’s apparent pivot from their “short-lived framing of mask-wearing as an act of patriotism.”
Trump first publicly wore a mask on July 11 during a visit to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to visit with wounded service members, Wingrove reported.
And on July 20, Trump posted a tweet encouraging even his supporters to wear masks.
“We are United in our effort to defeat the Invisible [coronavirus], and many people say that it is Patriotic to wear a face mask when you can’t socially distance,” Trump said. “There is nobody more Patriotic than me, your favorite President!”
At his recent quasi-rallies across the country, however, where hundreds and sometimes thousands of Trump’s fans gather to welcome him to their cities, Trump has appeared to mock the concept of mask-wearing. Jokingly referring to the rallies as “peaceful protests,” many of his supporters are seen mask-free at the events, as is the president.