On a day where President Donald Trump tried to stick to his script in a return to coronavirus briefings, he still managed to mangle his messaging by lying about his mask use and wishing an accused sex trafficker well.
Appearing solo without the burden of fact purveyors like doctors and experts, Trump initially read stiltedly from a paper in front of him, telling assembled reporters about the importance of masks and social distances following months of ignoring or deriding both practices.
“I have the mask right here, I carry it. And I will use it gladly, no problem with it,” Trump said. “And I've said that and I say, if you can, use the mask, when you can, use the mask, if you're close to each other, if you're in a group, I would put it on when I'm in a group.”
Photo evidence to the contrary appeared less than 24 hours before, according to The Huffington Post, when Trump was spotted Monday at one of his hotels sans his mask and around several maskless people.
When a reporter pressed him about the scene at the hotel, he claimed "I was pretty far away from people,” but a video shared on Twitter by a CNN reporter showed the president maskless, though others nearby wore a face covering.
“If you're close together, I would put on the mask,” Trump said, later adding he was getting used to the mask, more than three months after Trump said in a briefing that Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended their usage.
The president only readily embraced wearing a mask himself recently, with his online orbit cheering him on for wearing one during a recent appearance at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. His Instagram account also posted a black and white photo of him wearing a mask with the presidential seal this week apparently as a signal that this was the direction the message for moving in.
During the briefing, Trump also called on Americans to use masks and socially distance while also “imploring young Americans to avoid packed bars and other crowded indoor gatherings."
“I’ve never fought either one,” Trump claimed, when pressed about his embracing masks and social distancing.
Yet Trump has shown little regard for such mitigation measures in recent weeks. He tried to return to campaigning with a much criticized rally in Tulsa that alarmed health experts and followed that appearance with a speech in an Arizona church filled with young supporters.
Trump has been so insistent on returning to normal, he pulled the Republican National Convention out of host city Charlotte, NC after the state’s Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper denied him a packed house for the August event due to public health concerns,
That spat led to the GOP-mega event being sent to Jacksonville, where preparations have worried both local leaders and doctors in the state.
And according to a CBS story, Trump also retweeted a tweet in May belittling former Vice President Joe Biden for wearing a mask during the pandemic. And before his Tulsa rally, Trump told Axios that masks were "a double-edged sword,” according to the news site.
Also during the briefing came the question about whether Ghislaine Maxwell, accused sex trafficker and recently arrested close associate of Jeffery Epstein would “turn in powerful men.”
“I don't know, I haven't really been following it too much," Trump said. “I just wish her well, frankly. I've met her numerous times over the years, especially since I lived in Palm Beach and I guess they lived in Palm Beach. But I wish her well, whatever it is.”
Trump’s return to the briefing room came almost three months after the president abandoned the daily coronavirus task force briefings that he had come to embrace earlier in the pandemic. The sessions with reporters were anything but straightforward however, with Trump often lashing out at foes and deriding Democrats instead of focusing singularly on the toll the virus was taking on the country.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the nation’s death toll was over 141,000 according to Johns Hopkins University.
His latest evening news conference did not include the same health experts that had typically accompanied him during coronavirus briefings. Their absence from the president’s briefing room return also comes as the coronavirus has shown a resurgence in states that have alarmed health experts following the president’s push throughout the spring that state’s reopen from their pandemic shutdowns.
When one reported asked where Dr. Deborah Birx, the coronavirus task force response coordinator or Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases were, Trump spent little time explaining their absence.
“Well Dr. Birx is right outside,” he said, and quickly moved on.
-- With additional reporting from William Bredderman