President Donald Trump has a face covering with the presidential seal on it, but refused to wear it on the public part of his tour of a Ford plant in Michigan on Thursday despite factory policy.
Trump was photographed wearing a mask at the plant, and a source familiar with the matter confirmed the authenticity of that photo. The president was given a mask by Ford.
"I wore one in the back area but I didn't want to press to get the pleasure of seeing it," Trump told reporters during an appearance at a Ford plant in Ypsilanti that's 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 also made clear 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 earlier this week.
State Attorney General Dana Nessel, a Democrat, sent Trump an open letter on Wednesday urging him to wear a face mask at the plant, saying the mask 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 also argued he has "a social and moral responsibility" to take reasonable precautions against spreading the virus.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters earlier Thursday she thought it was important for the president and vice president to set a good example 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 very needs. Other people don't have that."
Trump, asked if he was concerned about not setting a good example for the public, said, "I think it sets an example both ways."