Ledyard King and David Jackson
Published 11:20 AM EDT Sep 8, 2020
WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump requested a White House reporter remove his mask when asking a question during a Monday news conference at the White House because he had trouble understanding him.
“You’re very muffled,” Trump told Reuters reporter Jeff Mason. Mason declined to remove the black mask, saying he would just speak louder.
“It’s better,” Trump said with an audible sigh before Mason asked about a recent story in The Atlantic magazine alleging Trump disparaged members of the U.S. military who have been captured or killed. The magazine reported last week Trump referred to the American war dead at the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery in France as “losers” and “suckers” in 2018.
Trump has vehemently denied making the remarks regarding the soldiers and did so again in response to Mason’s question, calling it a “hoax.”
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Here’s how the exchange went with Mason, according to a transcript provided by the White House:
Q Thanks, Mr. President. The issue of what happened when you were in France continues to be a story.
THE PRESIDENT: You’re going to have to take that off, please. Just – you can take it off. Your health – how many feet are you away?
Q I’ll speak a lot louder.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, if you don’t take it off, you’re very muffled. So if you would take it off, it would be a lot easier.
Q I’ll just speak a lot louder. Is that better?
THE PRESIDENT: It’s better, yeah. It’s better.
Later in the news conference, the president compliments another reporter who asked a question without a mask covering his mouth.
“You sound so clear as opposed to everybody else, where they refuse,” Trump said.
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Mason is a former president of the White House Correspondents’ Association. The organization requires reporters to wear masks during news conferences due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Trump, who was not wearing a mask during the outdoor news conference on the North Portico of the White House, has vacillated on the issue of mask wearing.
He has worn masks on a few occasions, most notably during a July 11 visit with ill troops at Walter Reed hospital. And on July 21 he urged all Americans to do so, saying he was “getting used” to the idea.
“We’re asking everybody that when you are not able to socially distance, wear a mask, get a mask,” Trump said then. “Whether you like the mask or not, they have an impact, they’ll have an effect. We need everything we can get.”
More: Joe Biden says he would require wearing masks in public to prevent coronavirus spread
A few weeks later, Trump criticized Democratic presidential opponent Joe Biden for proposing a policy to have all of the nation’s governors require mask wearing in their states.
Calling it an unnecessary mandate, Trump said: “We want to have a certain freedom. That’s what we’re about.”