YPSILANTI, Mich. – President Donald Trump traveled to pivotal U.S. battleground Michigan on Thursday to visit a Ford Motor Co factory amid tensions with his Democratic governor during the corona virus pandemic, opting not to wear a protective face mask for the cameras .
Trump visited the Ford factory, which has been converted to produce fans and personal protective equipment, and held a roundtable discussion with African American leaders about vulnerable populations affected by the virus.
The president, who has said he is taking a drug that has not been proven for the coronavirus after two White House employees tested positive in recent weeks, did not wear a mask at any of his public events at the factory in the town of Ypsilanti, although Ford on Tuesday repeated the policy that all visitors should wear them.
Trump has consistently ignored the guidelines of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and urged people to wear masks in close company to try to control the spread of the virus.
Surrounded by Ford executives who wore masks, Trump told reporters he posted one out of view of cameras,
“I had one before. I wore one at the back. I didn’t want to give the press the pleasure of seeing it, ”Trump said.
When asked if Trump was told it was acceptable not to wear a mask in the factory, Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford said, “It’s up to him.”
“Frankly, I think I look better with a mask,” Trump added jokingly.
Trump, a Republican seeking reelection on November 3, has urged states to ease coronavirus-related restrictions so that the battered U.S. economy can recover, even as public health experts warn that premature easing of restrictions to second wave of infections.
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, who is seen as a potential vice presidential running mate for suspected Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, faces a backlash from some critics against her home warrants in a state hit hard by the latest recession. Trump has encouraged anti-lockdown protests against Whitmer in the Michigan capital.
Whitmer, whose state has been hit by devastating floods, moved Thursday to further reopen Michigan’s economy through a series of executive orders.
Trump threatened to refuse federal funding for Michigan on Wednesday over his plan for extended mail-in-voting, without proving that the practice could lead to voter fraud – although he later appeared to resist the threat.
At the factory, Trump reiterated his opposition to postal voting, saying, “Postal voting is done with fraud and abuse.” Democrats have accused Republicans of pursuing a voter repression policy targeting voters who tend to support Democrats.
Trump pledged federal support on Thursday to help with Michigan’s “very bad” dam breaches. Rising flood waters have displaced thousands of residents near the city of Midland.
Whitmer spoke to Trump on Wednesday.
“I said we should all be on the same page. We should stop demonizing each other and really focus on the common enemy being the virus. And now it’s a natural disaster, ” Whitmer told CBS News and described her conversation with Trump.
Whitmer added, “Threatening to take away money from a state that hurts as much as we do now is just scary, and I think something unacceptable.”
During the roundtable discussion, Trump said he expected the CDC to provide guidance on re-opening places of worship as early as Thursday Thursday. Trump, whose conservative political base includes evangelical Christian voters, spoke of the need to reopen churches that, like other parts of society, were hit by a social distance policy during the pandemic.
Trump won in Michigan in the 2016 elections, the first Republican to do so since 1988.