President Donald Trump has a face covering with the presidential seal on it, but he refused to wear it Thursday on the public part of his tour of a Ford plant in Michigan despite factory policy.
The president was given a mask by Ford. He was photographed wearing a mask at the plant, and a source familiar with the matter confirmed the authenticity of the photo.
"I wore one in this back area, but I didn't want to give the press the pleasure of seeing it," Trump told reporters during an appearance at a Ford plant in Ypsilanti that is making ventilators to combat the coronavirus.
He then displayed the black face covering, which has the presidential seal in the corner. "I think I look better in the mask," Trump said before offering a different explanation for why he wasn't wearing it. "I'm making a speech, so I won't have it on now," he said.
He then said he didn't need a mask because he'd been tested earlier in the day, as were the people he was meeting with.
In a statement, the company said Executive Chairman Bill Ford had "encouraged" Trump to wear a mask when he arrived. "He wore a mask during a private viewing of three Ford GTs from over the years. The president later removed the mask for the remainder of the visit," the statement said.
Ford made the White House aware of its policy ahead of Trump's visit that "everyone wears PPE to prevent the spread of COVID-19" inside the plant, but it also made it clear that company officials wouldn't challenge the president. "We have shared our policies and recommendations. The White House has its own safety and testing policies in place and will make its own determination," the company said in a statement this week.
State Attorney General Dana Nessel, a Democrat, sent an open letter Wednesday urging Trump to wear a mask at the plant, saying the requirement "is not just the policy of Ford."
"By virtue of the governor's executive orders" it "is currently the law of this State," Nessel said.
Nessel argued that Trump has "a social and moral responsibility" to take reasonable precautions against spreading the virus.
"The president is like a petulant child who refuses to follow the rules," she said on CNN after Trump's visit.
Trump late Thursday criticized Nessel in two tweets calling her the "Wacky Do Nothing Attorney General of Michigan" and saying she "viciously threatening Ford Motor Company for the fact that I inspected a Ventilator plant without a mask" and noted he did wear a mask.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., told reporters earlier in the day she thought it was important for the president and the vice president to set good examples for the rest of the country by following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's recommendation that Americans wear face coverings in public. Both have been criticized for not wearing masks during appearances over the past month.
"I would hope that the president and the vice president would wear a mask. They don't wear a mask, why not? Other people should, so they should set an example," Pelosi said. "They have doctors around them all the time to administer to their various needs. Other people don't have that."
Trump, asked whether he was concerned about not setting a good example, said, "I think it sets an example both ways."