Vice President Mike Pence is coming under fire for not saying the word “mask” at a coronavirus press conference. Critics are saying he is afraid of angering Donald Trump, who is vocally against the idea of wearing a mask despite recommendations from his own administration that all Americans should do so.
Pence spoke on Friday at a press conference, making a controversial and contested claim that the U.S. has turned the curve against the virus. Pence did not wear a mask at the conference, though fellow White House coronavirus task force members Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx did.
When asked if Americans should wear a mask, Pence said that people should wear facial coverings to adhere with local guidelines — a distinction that many critics seized upon. As NBC News reporter Katy Tur noted on Twitter, Pence both refused to say the word mask and did not wear one when he was away from the microphone.
Hawaii Sen. Brian Schatz said that Pence appeared to be afraid of contradicting the stance of the president, who has been opposed to the idea of wearing a mask himself.
“Pence is afraid if he uses the word ‘mask’ Trump will be mad,” Schatz tweeted. “And thousands more will [die] and millions will stay out of work because apparatchiks worry more about offending their leader than they are of mass preventable death. Republicans must be not just beaten but repudiated.”
Others joined in on criticizing Pence for what they saw as mixed messaging, telling Americans to follow local guidelines while not adhering to the federal government’s guideline to wear a mask.
Pence is asked if he thinks people should wear a mask.
He avoids saying the word “mask” but does say facial coverings in respect to following local guidance.
— Katy Tur (@KatyTurNBC) June 26, 2020
Mike Pence's absolute refusal to clearly say that Americans should wear masks in order to stop the spread of the coronavirus is absolutely reprehensible and will result in the deaths of thousands of Americans.
— igorvolsky (@igorvolsky) June 26, 2020
Pence has already stirred controversy for his refusal to wear a mask during visits, including one to the Mayo Clinic where he broke the hospital’s policies requiring visitors to wear one.
As The Inquisitr noted, the vice president’s wife, Karen Pence, claimed that he had not been informed of the guidelines before making the visit to the hospital in late April, but this was contradicted from hospital staff who said that they were told beforehand.
Critics say Trump’s refusal to wear a mask is setting an example that many of his supporters pick up on, leading many to disregard the advice of public health experts about how to stay safe and prevent the spread of the virus.
A number of states, especially those with governors closely allied with Trump who pushed for reopening economies before public health experts deemed it safe to do so, are now seeing sharp rises in coronavirus cases.