WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump said Wednesday he’s not sure that face masks should be mandatory but that he’d wear one in a “tight” crowd.
“I’m all for masks,” Trump said in an interview with Fox Business Network. “I think masks are good.”
Trump, who has resisted wearing a mask in public, questioned whether they should be mandatory because “you have many places in the country where people stay very long distance.”
But he said he’d wear one if he found himself in a crowd where social distancing wasn’t possible. “If I were in a tight situation with people, I would absolutely,” he said.
Trump said he seldom finds himself in such situations and noted that people are tested for coronavirus before they get close to him. But he said he has worn a mask in cases where he has been with a small group of people.
“I sort of liked the way it looked,” he said. “It was a dark black mask, and I thought it looked OK. It looked like the Lone Ranger.”
Several prominent Republicans, including Vice President Mike Pence and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, have publicly urged Americans in recent days to wear a mask in public when they are unable to practice social distancing.
Sen. Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee Republican who chairs the Senate health committee, called Tuesday on Trump to occasionally wear a mask even though “there are not many occasions when it is necessary for him to do so.”
“Unfortunately, this simple lifesaving practice has become part of a political debate that says: If you’re for Trump, you don’t wear a mask. If you’re against Trump, you do,” Alexander said during a hearing on the COVID-19 outbreak.
“The president has millions of admirers,” Alexander said. “They would follow his lead. It would help end this political debate. The stakes are too high for it to continue.”
Former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, has called for face masks be mandatory in public as part of his response plan to COVID-19.
“Everyone needs to wear a mask in public, period. Period,” Biden said Tuesday during a news conference in Wilmington, Delaware. “It’s called patriotism. It’s called responsibility. It’s called looking out for another person.”
Trump has said that, for him, wearing a mask in public would not appear presidential. He told The Wall Street Journal earlier this month that he thinks some people wear masks as a political symbol of opposition to him rather than as a health precaution. He also expressed concern that they are not hygienic.
Michael Collins covers the White House. Reach him on Twitter @mcollinsNEWS.