Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel on Thursday called President Donald Trump "a petulant child" for refusing to wear a mask during much of his tour of a Ford manufacturing plant, warning that the president's decision to flout coronavirus safety guidelines sets a dangerous example and puts people's health at risk.
"I think the message he sent is the same message since he first took office in 2017, which is, 'I don't care about you. I don't care about your health. I don't care about your safety. I don't care about your welfare. I don't care about anyone but myself,'" Nessel said in an appearance on CNN following Trump's tour of the Ypsilanti, Michigan Ford facility, whose policy requires a face covering while inside the plant.
Michigan's Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer also signed an executive order requiring face masks in enclosed public spaces.
"Today's events were extremely disappointing and yet totally predictable," said Nessel. "The president is like a petulant child who refuses to follow the rules. And I have to say, this is no joke. I mean, you just reported that 93,000 people have died in the United States. He's in a county right now where over 100 people have died. I am 20 minutes away from him in Wayne County where we've had over 2,300 people die."
ICYMI: Michigan AG @DanaNessel joined @CNN to talk about President Trump's visit to Michigan and the importance of taking safety precautions, like wearing a mask in public spaces. pic.twitter.com/rgimLfYjCY
— Democratic AGs (@DemocraticAGs) May 21, 2020
Trump did wear a mask at one point during the visit but took it off while in view of television cameras because, in his words, he "didn't want to give the press the pleasure of seeing it."
Some photos of Trump wearing a mask inside the facility circulated on social media:
President Trump wears a mask during his tour of the Ford Rawsonville Components Plant in Ypsilanti, Michigan, where ventilators, masks and other medical supplies are being manufactured. https://t.co/UCqBVUEuBZ
— NBC News (@NBCNews) May 22, 2020
As the Washington Post reported Thursday, Trump "has previously said that while he supported public health recommendations for face masks as an effective way to prevent transmission of the virus, he did not plan to wear one because it would be unseemly, especially in the Oval Office."
"I was given a choice," Trump told reporters when asked why he was not wearing a mask like the Ford executives who directed his tour of the facility. "I had one on in an area where they preferred it. So I put it on, and it was very nice, it looked very nice, but they said not necessary here."
REPORTER: Can you explain why you decided not to wear a mask?
TRUMP: "Well I did wear -- I had one on before. I wore one in this back area. But I didn't want to give the press the pleasure of seeing it."
R: But the executives are wearing them.
TRUMP: "That's their choice." pic.twitter.com/WuNFNrYkxm
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) May 21, 2020
In a letter (pdf) to Trump ahead of his visit, Nessel implored the president to wear a mask during the Ford tour, writing that "anyone who has potentially been recently exposed, including the president of the United States, has not only a legal responsibility, but also a social and moral responsibility, to take reasonable precautions to prevent further spread of the virus."
"It is not just the policy of Ford, by virtue of the governor's executive orders," wrote Nessel. "It is currently the law of this state. Michigan has been hit especially hard by the virus, with more than 50,000 confirmed cases and 5,000 deaths."