YPSILANTI — President Trump visited a Ford plant in Ypsilanti on Thursday amid tensions with Governor Whitmer, opting to forgo wearing a face mask for cameras.
Trump toured the Ford plant, which has been making ventilators and personal protective equipment, and held a roundtable discussion with African American leaders on vulnerable populations hit by the virus. He did not wear any masks at public events even though Ford reiterated its policy on Tuesday that all visitors must wear them.
He told reporters he had put one on out of view of the cameras.
“I had one on before,” Trump said. “I wore one in the back area. I didn’t want to give the press the pleasure of seeing it. Honestly, I think I look better in a mask.”
When asked if Trump was told it was acceptable not to wear a mask in the plant, Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford said, “it’s up to him.”
The company later said in a statement that Ford had “encouraged” Trump to wear a mask when he arrived, adding that he did during a private viewing of three two-seater Ford GT sports cars, but then removed the face covering afterward.
Trump, a Republican seeking re-election on November 3 against presumptive Democratic challenger Joe Biden, has urged states to loosen coronavirus-related restrictions to a battered U.S. economy despite warnings from health experts that a second wave of infections could occur.
Whitmer, who is seen as a potential vice presidential running mate for Biden, has faced backlash and protests over her stay-at-home executive orders, the last of which will expire on May 28.
On Thursday, she moved to further open the Michigan economy through a series of executive orders. She has also requested aid from Trump due to what is being called a “500 year flood” after waters overtook two dams in Midland, where thousands of people have been displaced from their homes.
Previously, Trump threatened to withhold federal funding from Michigan over its plan for expanded mail-in voting, saying without offering evidence that the practice could lead to voter fraud, according to a report from Reuters, although he later appeared to have backed off the threat. He pledged federal support to help with the “very bad” dam breaks.
“Voting by mail is wrought with fraud and abuse,” Trump repeated at the plant on Thursday.
Democrats have accused Republicans of pursuing voter suppression policies aimed at voters who tend to back Democrats.
Whitmer speaks with Trump, seeks end to feud
Whitmer spoke with Trump on Wednesday, taking issue with Trump’s threats to withhold funding.
“Threatening to take money away from a state that is hurting as bad as we are right now is just scary and I think something that is unacceptable,” she said.
She also appealed for common ground during a time that has been plagued by disasters and uncertainty.
“I made the case that, you know, we all have to be on the same page here,” Whitmer told CBS News. “We’ve got to stop demonizing one another and really focus on the fact that the common enemy is the virus. And now it’s a natural disaster.”