During the coronavirus pandemic, the President of the United States set an example for millions of followers by refusing to wear a mask to prevent the spread of a new disease that has killed nearly 3,300 South Dakotans and over 1.14 million Americans.
According to Trump White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, Trump’s choice to set that example was based on mere vanity:
Trump’s own antipathy to masks, and its effect on willingness to mask up among his ardent supporters, was established early in the pandemic. Notably, Hutchinson describes a visit to a mask-making factory in Phoenix, Arizona, in May 2020, in the chaotic and frightening first months of the Covid onslaught.
Trump was widely criticised for not wearing a mask during the tour of the Honeywell facility, though workers did and a sign was visible that read: “Attention: Face Mask Required in this Area. Thank You!” In a coincidence widely if mordantly noted, Live and Let Die, Paul McCartney’s theme song to Roger Moore’s first appearance as James Bond, played as Trump toured the plant.
Trump told reporters he tried a mask but did not wear it after consulting the company chief executive. Hutchinson writes that in fact Trump “decided on a white mask”, then asked staffers what they thought.
“I slowly shook my head,” she writes. “The president pulled the mask off and asked why I thought he should not wear it.
“I pointed at the straps of the N95 I was holding. When he looked at the straps of his mask, he saw they were covered in bronzer.”
Trump’s reliance on heavy makeup is well documented.
“Why did no one else tell me that,” he snapped. “I’m not wearing this thing.”
“The press would criticise him for not wearing a mask,” Hutchinson writes, “not knowing that the depth of his vanity had caused him to reject masks – and then millions of his fans followed suit” [Martin Pengelly, “Trump and Meadows Joked About Covid on Plane After Biden Debate,” The Guardian, 2023.09.20].
Well, Republicans have been telling us that men wearing make-up are a threat to life as we know it. Trump’s choice to keep his make-up unsmudged over keeping himself and the people around him safer from coronavirus. That vain choice led numerous Americans to reject a basic and inexpensive public health action. As a result, more Americans died of coronavirus than would have with a better role model in the White House, a man who would have put the lives of his fellow Americans ahead of his vanity.