President Trump said on Friday that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was urging all Americans to wear a mask when they leave their homes, but he undercut the message by repeatedly calling the recommendation voluntary and saying he would not wear one himself, The New York Times reports.
“With the masks, it is going to be a voluntary thing,” the President said at the beginning of the daily coronavirus briefing at the White House. “You can do it. You don’t have to do it. I am choosing not to do it. It may be good. It is only a recommendation, voluntary.”
“Wearing a face mask as I greet presidents, prime ministers, dictators, kings, queens — I don’t know,” he added, though he stopped receiving foreign dignitaries weeks ago. “Somehow, I just don’t see it for myself.”
Mr. Trump’s announcement, followed by his quick dismissal, was a remarkable public display of the intense debate that has played out inside the West Wing over the past several days as a divided administration argued about whether to request such a drastic change in Americans’ social behavior.
Senior officials at the C.D.C. have been pushing the president for days to advise everyone — even people who appear to be healthy — to wear a mask or a scarf that covers their mouth and nose when shopping at the grocery store or while in other public places.
The President’s briefing was particularly contentious: He insulted reporters, jousted with his own administration and generally returned to pugilistic form.
At one point, he would not say, in response to a question, whether he was taking steps to ensure that the 2020 presidential election would take place as scheduled, should the coronavirus still be present in November. But he insisted the election would not be postponed.
Mr. Trump added that he did not approve of voting by mail, an idea gaining currency amid concerns that in-person voting would expose people to the coronavirus.
“I think a lot of people cheat with mail-in in voting,” he said. “It should be, you go to a booth and you proudly display yourself.”