Thursday July 9th, 2020 3:51AM

Pandemic politics: Maskless Trump tours Michigan Ford plant

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

YPSILANTI TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) — Pandemic politics shadowed President Donald Trump's trip to Michigan on Thursday as he highlighted lifesaving medical devices, with the president and officials from the electoral battleground state clashing over federal aid, mail-in ballots and face masks.

Trump visited Ypsilanti, outside Detroit, to tour a Ford Motor Co. factory that had been repurposed to manufacture ventilators, the medical breathing machines governors begged for during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But his visit came amid a long-running feud with the state's Democratic governor and a day after the president threatened to withhold federal funds over the state's expanded vote-by-mail effort. And, again, the president did not publicly wear a face covering despite a warning from the state's top law enforcement officer that a refusal to do so might lead to a ban on his return.

All of the Ford executives giving Trump the tour were wearings masks, the president standing alone without one. At one point, he did take a White House-branded mask from his pocket and tell reporters he had worn it elsewhere on the tour, out of public view.

“I did not want to give the press the pleasure of seeing it," Trump said.

For a moment, he also teasingly held up a clear shield in front of his face. A statement from Ford said that Bill Ford, the company's executive chairman, “encouraged President Trump to wear a mask when he arrived" and said the president wore it during “a private viewing of three Ford GTs from over the years" before removing it.

The United Auto Workers union noted in a statement that “some in his entourage'” declined face masks and said “it is vitally important that our members continue to follow the protocols that have been put in place to safeguard them, their families and their communities.”

The UAW also noted Trump's statement that he had just been tested for the virus and said it wanted to make sure he understood the wider “need for an economical instant test that can be administered daily to further protect our members -- and all Americans.”

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Trump's decision “wasn’t surprising but it was disappointing." Speaking to MSNBC, she added that anyone with a public platform “has a responsiblity to make sure that they model precisely what we’re asking everyone else to do.”

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said mask wearing isn’t just Ford’s policy — it’s also the law in a state that’s among those hardest hit by the virus. Nessel said that if Trump refused to wear a mask Thursday “he’s going to be asked not to return to any enclosed facilities inside our state" and “we're going to have to take action” against any company that allows it in the future.

Trump has refused to wear a face mask in public, telling aides he believes it makes him look weak, though it is a practice that federal health authorities say all Americans should adopt to help slow the spread of the virus.

Ford said everyone in its factories must wear personal protective equipment, including masks, and that its policy had been communicated to the White House. At least two people who work in the White House and had been physically close to Trump recently tested positive for the virus.

The Republican president and Whitmer have clashed during the coronavirus outbreak over her criticism of the federal response to the state's needs for medical equipment, like ventilators, and personal protective gear, such as gloves, masks and gowns. Trump on Thursday criticized Democratic governors, suggesting they were proceeding too slowly in reopening their states' economies.

“You have a lot of, unfortunately, in this case Democrat governors (who) think it’s good politics to keep it closed," Trump said. “I think they’re being forced to open, frankly, the people want to get out. You’ll break the country if you don’t."

The day before, Trump threatened to withhold federal funds from Michigan after its secretary of state mailed absentee ballot applications to millions of voters. Trump first tweeted — falsely — that the Democratic state official had mailed absentee ballots to Michigan voters. He later sent a corrected tweet specifying that applications to request absentee ballots had been mailed and seemed to back off his funding threat.

Trump narrowly won Michigan in 2016. He insists mail-in voting is ripe for fraud, although there is scant evidence of wrongdoing.

“We don’t want them to do mail in ballots because it’s going to lead to total election fraud," Trump said Thursday. But then he allowed for some exceptions, including for himself.

“Now, if somebody has to mail it in because they’re sick, or by the way because they live in the White House and they have to vote in Florida and they won’t be in Florida. But there’s a reason for it, that’s OK."

Trying to signal to the nation that life is returning to normal, the president has begun traveling again, with all of his initial trips to states that will be hotly contested in this November’s election. Campaign advisers have grown increasingly worried about Michigan, believing that the president’s attacks on Whitmer have not worked and that the toll the virus has taken in the Detroit area, particularly among African Americans, will prove costly politically.

Trump, at a roundtable with African American supporters in front of a sign with his slogan for reopening the economy, “Transition to Greatness," noted low minority unemployment numbers before the pandemic and also pointed to his administration's work on criminal justice reform.

The president's advisers have become convinced that of the three Rust Belt states that Trump took from Democrats in 2016, Michigan would be much more difficult to win again than Pennsylvania and, especially, Wisconsin.

In the early days of the crisis, Whitmer and other governors and medical workers clamored for ventilators, fearing a shortage of the machines would prove deadly as the virus made breathing difficult for the scores of afflicted patients who were being brought to hospitals.

But the U.S. now has a surplus of the breathing machines, leading Trump to begin describing the nation as the “king of ventilators.”


Lemire reported from New York. Associated Press writers David Eggert in Lansing, Michigan, and Zeke Miller in Washington contributed reporting.


Follow Darlene Superville on Twitter: and Lemire at

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP Online Headlines - Washington, AP Business, AP Business - Corporate News, AP Business - Industries, AP Business - Health Care
© Copyright 2020
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Man who filmed Arbery shooting video charged in his slaying
The Georgia man who filmed cellphone video of the fatal shooting of Ahmaud Arbery has now been charged with murder
6:33PM ( 8 minutes ago )
Divided Senate confirms Ratcliffe as intelligence chief
A sharply divided Senate has confirmed John Ratcliffe as director of national intelligence
6:32PM ( 10 minutes ago )
Universal Orlando seeks to reopen theme parks in early June
Universal Orlando is aiming to reopen its theme parks in early June
6:31PM ( 11 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
In reversal, White House tells CDC to post church guidance
After refusing for weeks to release reopening guidance for churches, the Trump administration on Thursday abruptly changed course — with the president saying he had instructed health officials to put the advice out
5:45PM ( 56 minutes ago )
Pandemic politics: Maskless Trump visits Michigan Ford plant
Pandemic politics have shadowed President Donald Trump’s trip to Michigan
5:37PM ( 1 hour ago )
GOP rising star John James faces trouble at top of ticket
Michigan Senate candidate John James has been called a rising star of the Republican Party so many times it’s become a cliche, but his race against Sen. Gary Peters in a presidential battleground state has gotten dicier
5:25PM ( 1 hour ago )
AP Online Headlines - Washington
US begins crackdown on unvetted virus blood tests
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is moving ahead with a crackdown on scores of COVID-19 antibody tests that have not yet been shown to work
5:35PM ( 1 hour ago )
Pandemic highlights big box stores' ability to pivot
Big box stores like Best Buy,Target, Walmart and others have been able to capitalize on their digital expertise and stay relevant during the pandemic
5:04PM ( 1 hour ago )
Virus cases spike in California county on Mexican border
As much of California reopens for business amid easing coronavirus conditions, a farming region bordering Mexico is struggling with a spike of cases
5:03PM ( 1 hour ago )
AP Business
Improper email delays key vote on PG&E's bankruptcy plan
California power regulators have unexpectedly delayed a key vote on Pacific Gas & Electric’s plan for getting out of bankruptcy
3:09PM ( 3 hours ago )
Clinton and Patterson again team up for political thriller
The fiction writing team of Bill Clinton and James Patterson has reunited
2:32PM ( 4 hours ago )
Amid pandemic politics, Trump heads to Michigan Ford plant
Pandemic politics are shadowing President Donald Trump’s trip to Michigan
1:25PM ( 5 hours ago )
AP Business - Corporate News
Fed's Powell says economic forecasts filled with uncertainty
Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell says efforts to forecast the recovery path of the U_S_ economy out of the current deep downturn face “a whole new level of uncertainty.”
3:43PM ( 2 hours ago )
US stock indexes turn lower amid grim news on the economy
Stocks are down in afternoon trading on Wall Street Thursday as the market gives back some of its gains from a day earlier
3:11PM ( 3 hours ago )
Deadly cyclone cuts destructive path in India and Bangladesh
Wide areas of coastal India and Bangladesh are flooded and millions of people are without power after Cyclone Amphan struck the region
12:55PM ( 5 hours ago )
AP Business - Industries
European plans to use apps in virus tracking face setbacks
Doubts are growing over whether ambitious plans by European governments to use contact-tracing apps to fight the spread of the coronavirus will be able to be implemented with any real effectiveness soon
7:16AM ( 11 hours ago )
The Latest: Indonesia virus cases spike ahead of holiday
Indonesia’s number of confirmed coronavirus cases surpassed 20,000 as the world’s most populous Muslim nation is entering a critical period in its fight against the COVID-19 outbreak during its most important Islamic holiday
7:15AM ( 11 hours ago )
The Latest: African countries urged to up testing tenfold
The Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the African continent needs to test about 10 times the number of people it has already tested for the coronavirus
5:50AM ( 12 hours ago )
AP Business - Health Care
Man who filmed Arbery shooting video charged in his slaying
The Georgia man who filmed cellphone video of the fatal shooting of Ahmaud Arbery has now been charged with murder
6:33PM ( 9 minutes ago )
Divided Senate confirms Ratcliffe as intelligence chief
A sharply divided Senate has confirmed John Ratcliffe as director of national intelligence
6:32PM ( 10 minutes ago )
Universal Orlando seeks to reopen theme parks in early June
Universal Orlando is aiming to reopen its theme parks in early June
6:31PM ( 11 minutes ago )
Coronavirus-triggered layoffs in US hit nearly 39 million
The U.S. government says the number of Americans out of work since the coronavirus crisis struck two months ago has climbed to nearly 39 million
6:02PM ( 40 minutes ago )
GOP weighs jobless aid cuts to urge Americans back to work
President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell huddled at the White House to consider next steps in coronavirus aid
5:59PM ( 43 minutes ago )