WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump showed up at a White House news conference on Thursday without a face mask, just one day after saying he'd be open to wearing them in certain situations.
The president's decision to go maskless comes after he questioned whether they should be mandatory, saying during a television interview, “you have many places in the country where people stay very long distance.”
But Trump told Fox Business Network he’d wear one if he found himself in a crowd where social distancing wasn’t possible. “If I were in a tight situation with people, I would absolutely,” he said.
Thursday's news conference about jobs numbers was held in the White House briefing room, a small theater in the West Wing. Reporters who attended the press event were seated with empty chairs between them to practice social distancing.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who took the podium with White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow after Trump finished speaking, noted that he and Kudlow were not wearing a face mask because both of them had been given a coronavirus test Thursday morning.
"But even with that, we did social distancing," Mnuchin said, telling reporters, "I'm pleased to see you're all wearing masks."
Mnuchin defended Trump's decision to go without a mask.
"Because he's the president of the United States and people are not around him close and the people who are around him are tested," Mnuchin said. "I don't think he needs to wear a mask, but the rest of us – absolutely."
"The president supports wearing masks," Mnuchin added.
In the Fox interview, Trump said he seldom finds himself in tight situations and noted that people are tested for coronavirus before they get close to him. But he said he has worn a mask in cases where he has been with a small group of people.
“I sort of liked the way it looked,” he said. “It was a dark black mask, and I thought it looked OK. It looked like the Lone Ranger.”
Several prominent Republicans, including Vice President Mike Pence and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, have publicly urged Americans in recent days to wear a mask in public when they are unable to practice social distancing.
Sen. Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee Republican who chairs the Senate health committee, called Tuesday on Trump to occasionally wear a mask even though “there are not many occasions when it is necessary for him to do so.”
Michael Collins covers the White House. Reach him on Twitter @mcollinsNEWS.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Trump doesn't wear mask at White House after saying he would wear one