President Donald Trump has connected wearing a face mask with being "patriotic," marking his clearest endorsement of the step yet after months of mixed messages and refusing to wear one himself.
Trump tweeted a picture of himself wearing a mask on Monday night, adding: "We are United in our effort to defeat the Invisible China Virus, and many people say that it is Patriotic to wear a face mask when you can't socially distance."
"There is nobody more Patriotic than me, your favorite President!"
—Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 20, 2020
His tweet called the novel coronavirus the "China virus," repeating his controversial nickname for the disease that has been met with widespread criticism for connecting people of Chinese descent with the virus.
Trump has only been pictured wearing a mask in public and in front of the press once since the pandemic began — while he toured the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on July 11. The picture tweeted by Trump on Monday appears to be from this event.
Trump told Fox News Sunday that he wore the mask as he did not want to "spread anything" to the soldiers.
But there may have been another motive. An unnamed official who was at the event told CNN that the president decided to wear a mask after being shown data indicating that Americans did not approve of Trump's response to the virus.
Another advisor told CNN that Trump agreed to wear the mask after heavy "pleading" from aides, and that Trump had not wanted to be seen to be relenting to media pressure.
While Trump has not wholly criticized medical advice that people should wear masks, he has repeatedly said that it was not necessary for him, as he is protected and regularly tested, and pushed back against making them mandatory.
Trump had long avoided wearing one, and he reportedly believed that doing so would make him look ridiculous and harm his reelection chances.
In May, the White House made all West Wing staffers to wear masks in the building, but the rule did not apply to Trump.
Trump also went on to public events without wearing one.
He was criticized in May for touring a Honeywell factory without wearing a mask, though he said he wore one "backstage," where no cameras were present.
He also didn't wear one to tour a Ford factory, where he also said he wore on where the media could not see him, saying "I didn't want to give the press the pleasure of seeing it."
In June, Trump said he believed that some Americans were wearing masks to show that they disapprove of him.
On July 1, Trump said he was "all for masks," but was critical of the idea of mandatory face mask orders.
In the Fox News Sunday interview, Trump dismissed Centers for Disease Control predictions that the virus could soon be brought under control if everyone wore masks.
"I don't agree with the statement that if everybody wear a mask everything disappears," he said. "All of sudden everybody's got to wear a mask, and as you know masks cause problems, too."
But he later added: "With that being said, I'm a believer in masks. I think masks are good."
Vice President Mike Pence, who chairs the White House coronavirus task force, also told a meeting with governors on Monday that wearing masks and social distancing "dramatically decrease the rate of community spread," according to a recording obtained by The Daily Beast.
In late May, Trump shared a tweet mocking Biden for wearing a face mask at a public Memorial Day appearance.