Trump’s personal relationship with mask-wearing has been rocky since the beginning of the pandemic. Like anything new to him, he first interpreted being seen with a face covering in public as a sign of weakness. “Wearing a face mask as I greet presidents, prime ministers, dictators, kings, queens — I don’t know,” Trump said on April 3, just after the CDC recommended doing so in public spaces. “Somehow, I don’t see it for myself.”
By early May, he said he was onboard — just not in public. After facing criticism for not wearing a mask in a mask-making factory in Phoenix, Trump said he had a mask on “backstage” and “I can’t help it if you didn’t see me.” Weeks later, the president made fun of Joe Biden for appearing in public wearing a black face covering, sharing a tweet from Fox News commentator Brit Hume mocking the Democratic candidate’s appearance. But following the surge of cases in June, he had a change of heart: “I’m all for masks,” Trump told Fox Business Network on July 2. “I think masks are good.” (The image-conscious president even found something to like about his look, saying that he looked “like the Lone Ranger.”) On July 11, the president finally wore a mask in public in a visit to Walter Reed Medical Center, saying, “I love masks in the appropriate locations.” And on Monday, Trump took the next step, bestowing the practice with a high honor:
Many hope the president’s turnaround will encourage his supporters to don masks as well. It’s also a win for Republican leaders, including Mitch McConnell, who publicly appealed to Trump to wear a face covering in public as his approval rating plummets. The president has not, however, endorsed a federal mandate requiring masks to be worn in public. “I want people to have a certain freedom and I don’t believe in that,” he told Fox News’ Chris Wallace.