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Top Trump campaign official ridicules Joe Biden's mask-wearing after president, allies infected

Jason Miller, a longtime Trump campaign adviser, claimed Biden wears his mask "as a prop."
Trump campaign adviser Jason Miller appears on NBC's "Meet the Press" on Oct. 4, 2020.
Trump campaign adviser Jason Miller appears on NBC's "Meet the Press" on Oct. 4, 2020.NBC

A top adviser to President Donald Trump's campaign on Sunday ridiculed 2020 Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden's mask-wearing even as President Donald Trump remains hospitalized with Covid-19.

Speaking with ABC's "This Week," Trump campaign senior adviser Jason Miller was asked about Trump's comments on masks at Tuesday's debate. Trump ridiculed Biden for frequently wearing a mask in public and defended having large rallies with many maskless attendees.

"I don't wear masks like him every time you see him he's got a mask," Trump said. "He could be speaking 200 feet away and he shows up with the biggest mask I've ever seen."

Miller claimed the campaign "hasn't been cavalier at all" about the virus, pointing to temperature checks and mask giveaways, but criticized Biden for his frequent mask-wearing.

"Too often he has used it as a prop," he said. "Mask is very important but even if — he could be 20, 30 feet away from the nearest person and he could still have the mask on. That's not gonna change anything that's out there."

"We can't all just stay in our basement for the rest of our lives," Miller said, mentioning what's been a Republican point of mockery of Biden for holding virtual events during the pandemic. "We have to get out there and live our lives and take this on ... You can't just stay hidden in your basement the entire time."

Biden's deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield responded to Miller, telling "This Week" that his comment "tells you a lot of what you need to know about how the Trump campaign has treated this from the outset."

"Joe Biden believes that the words of a president matter, that the actions of a president matter. From the outset, he has taken this seriously," she said. "He has encouraged Americans to wear masks to protect each other."

She added that Biden "believes strongly that the role of the president is to lead, and is to lead by example."

In an interview with NBC's "Meet the Press," Miller also defended the president’s decision to travel to a campaign fundraiser in New Jersey after learning that another top aide had tested positive for Covid-19.

“Anybody around the president is tested, not only tested for Covid with the rapid test but they also have their temperature checked. At any of these events folks are kept back from him by six feet, that’s the update from the fundraiser they had. So people aren’t getting that close to the president,” Miller said.

White House officials and Trump advisers have provided conflicting messages on the president's health since he tested positive for Covid-19 last week. First lady Melania Trump and other prominent Republican officials have also tested positive for the virus in recent days.

Dr. Sean Conley, Trump's White House physician, acknowledged in a press conference on Sunday that he had not been forthcoming about Trump's condition in order to "reflect the upbeat attitude" of the White House. Asked about the mixed messages, White House strategic communications director Alyssa Farah told reporters that "when you're treating a patient, you want to project confidence, you want to lift their spirits and that was the intent."

An ABC/Ipsos poll released Sunday showed that 72 percent of Americans felt Trump did not take the risk of catching Covid-19 seriously enough or take the appropriate precautions for his own health.

Miller told "This Week" that he disagrees with the poll's findings.

"President Trump had to take this head on," he said, adding "This is a general-in-the-field-type moment that he couldn't just stay upstairs, hidden in the Lincoln bedroom or in the White House. He couldn't stay hidden in his basement, saying, 'I’m going to shut down forever.' People in this country, George, want to get life back to normal."

In an interview with "Fox News Sunday," another Trump campaign adviser, Steve Cortes, had a heated exchange with host Chris Wallace — moderator of Tuesday's debate — over the president's family not wearing masks in the debate hall and refusing face coverings offered by Cleveland Clinic officials. Masks were mandatory in the debate hall.

“Everybody was tested beforehand, everybody was told to wear a mask, why did the first family and the chief of staff feel the rules for everybody didn’t apply to them?” Wallace asked.

Cortes responded: "We also believe in some element of individual choice" and that members of the family were "distanced" from others. He later attacked Wallace over his performance as the debate's moderator.

Other polls released Sunday showed Biden with a substantial national lead over Trump. In an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll conducted after the debate but before the president's diagnosis, Biden held a 14-point lead over Trump. In a Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted after both developments, Biden held a 10-point lead over the president.

Biden, who stood near Trump at the debate, has so far tested negative for Covid-19. Bedingfield said the Biden campaign will make future results publicly available.

She added she's fully comfortable with the vice presidential debate between Vice President Mike Pence and Biden's running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., going forward, despite Pence having had contact or being in close proximity with people who have since tested positive. And she said she expects future presidential debates to take place as well.

"Obviously, we send President Trump our best," she said. "We hope that he is well and able to debate. If he is, Joe Biden will certainly be there."