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Trump's offensive against mask-wearing takes a ridiculous turn

For Trump to start throwing around this new talking point about 85% of mask-wearers, based on a perversion of science, is utterly bonkers.
President Donald Trump takes off his face mask as he arrives at the White House upon his return from Walter Reed Medical Center, where he underwent treatment for Covid-19 on Oct. 5, 2020.Nicholas Kamm / AFP - Getty Images

At a campaign event in North Carolina yesterday, Donald Trump told supporters, "You know, they keep saying, 'Nobody wears masks, wear the masks.' Although then they come out with things today, did you see CDC? That 85% of the people wearing the masks catch [the coronavirus]?"

Also yesterday morning, the president spoke to Fox Business and again said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention came out with a statement that said "85% of the people wearing masks catch it. Did you see that yesterday? They came out, what's that all about?"

All of which helped set the stage for last night's townhall event on NBC News, during which Trump declared, "Just the other day they came out with a statement that 85 percent of the people that wear masks catch it."

By any fair measure, the president told a lot of dangerous lies about the pandemic last night, but this was certainly among the most ridiculous.

[Trump's claim] is an inaccurate read of a Sept. 10 CDC report — the study found that people who contracted Covid-19 are more likely to have eaten in a restaurant, and both those who have tested positive and negative for the virus report wearing masks at similar rates. The CDC tweeted on Wednesday that "the interpretation that more mask-wearers are getting infected compared to non-mask wearers is incorrect."

To be sure, the White House's messaging on mask-wearing has been all over the place for months. For every instance in which the Republican has said wearing a mask is "patriotic," there are several additional examples of the president mocking others for taking the obvious precaution.

A month ago, during a national television appearance, Trump declared, "There are a lot of people think that masks are not good." Asked to identify these mask critics, he said, in all seriousness, "I'll tell you who those people are: waiters." (I'm still not sure what he was talking about.)

But this new push to convince the public that 85% of mask-wearers contract the virus is absurd. The president saw a misguided segment on Fox News and felt informed enough to start lying to the public about an important public-health measure during a pandemic.

As Rachel explained on the show last night, "He's essentially telling you that if you wear a mask, you are going to get COVID. It's not only fantastically wrong, it's fantastically dangerous when the science tells us that actually wearing masks is one of the main things that we can do as a country, as individual citizens, to slow the spread of the virus and to prevent others from getting it, more importantly to prevent ourselves from giving it to others."

The information from the CDC and other public-health experts has been unambiguous for months. For Trump to start throwing around this new talking point, based on a perversion of science, is utterly bonkers.