On Monday, President Donald Trump demanded that a reporter remove his face mask during a press conference, and a video of the tense encounter has been going viral ever since. Americans are outraged that the commander-in-chief directly ordered a citizen to disobey public health officials' recommendations, and showed such frustration when he didn't. Many on social media are sharing their theories about this bizarre move by Trump.
Trump was accepting questions from reporters in a White House press conference on Monday when he called on Reuters' Jeff Mason. Mason began speaking, but Trump interrupted him, saying: "You're gonna have to take that off. Please, you can take it off, you're — how many feet are you away?" Mason offered to "speak much louder," but Trump sputtered: "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."
WATCH: President Trump told Reuters reporter Jeff Mason to take off his mask at a White House press conference, saying he was "very muffled." Mason refused and said he would just speak louder https://t.co/Nj065CIsxp pic.twitter.com/MfrsjkXaeL— CBS News (@CBSNews) September 7, 2020
The awkward encounter came to a close with Trump visibly fuming at Mason for not removing his mask. Speaking up into the microphone, Mason asked if he sounded better. Trump responded with obvious sarcasm: "It's... better, yeah. It's better."
The clip has drawn a mixture of jokes and serious criticism online. While many users are poking fun at the president's short patience, or theorizing that he is losing his hearing, others question the aggressive, controlling nature of his demands. They think that Trump should face consequences for trying to force an American to operate outside of their comfort zone during a pandemic.
Mason was far from Trump during the press conference, but he was well within the range of other reporters and staff members. Many critics online speculate that Trump did not consider or care about their safety in this case, telling Mason he was "far away" enough to remove his mask, referring only to the distance between the two of them.
Trump later tweeted angrily about the encounter and the news coverage of it, re-posting a photo of reporters standing close together outdoors with no masks. One held a mask in his hand instead of on his face, and Trump wrote: "Same guy that didn't want to take off his mask yesterday in asking a question while being very socially distanced. Fake News!" As fact-checkers on Twitter pointed out, this was not from the same day, and may not have been Mason at all.
Either way, critics say that Trump has politicized masks, other safety measures and the coronavirus pandemic in general, making it all the harder for Americans to keep information straight during this crisis. Here is a look at how social media responded to Trump and Mason's awkward encounter on Monday.
Oddly, everyone else made it through the fog & rain on the road that day.— Lisa (@MiaLis79) September 8, 2020
It doesn't take a person almost 5 mins to speak the truth.
As for the mask, glad he didn't give in and take it off. How rude of Trump (wanna be dictator) to tell him to take it off.
Wow so many people can’t have fun anymore. Even if he was some distance away I would imagine that since it’s the mother fucking president that they would not take any chances. You all can call me an idiot but at least I’m not in denial about how much of a moron trump is.— Tim O’Neill (@TimONei94494282) September 8, 2020
Word salad with personal grievance croutons.— Unreliable Narrator (@thedavidseth) September 7, 2020
Exactly - the reporters are jammed in like sardines - of course the mask is needed.— Petula Ann Boland (@moneypennygirl) September 8, 2020
Proving, once again, Trump cares about no one but himself— Suzanne Tyrpak - Together, we Rise 🌊 (@SuzanneTyrpak) September 7, 2020
Setting an Example
Trump told a person to do something, and that person refused to do it because they knew it was foolish and wrong.September 8, 2020
Press corps need to walk out when the great leader insults them. Biden needs equal time.— Charles Scholten (@CScholten1) September 7, 2020
He's old and hard of hearing apparently— Jennifer Rubin (@JRubinBlogger) September 7, 2020
WHEN ARE ALL OF YOU GOING TO GET IT?? POTUS CAN"T HEAR? He has gone slowly deaf over the years and has been reading others lips like NEARLY ALL HEARING IMPAIRED PEOPLE will tell they do!! With everyone wearing MASKS HE CANT READ THEIR THEIR LIPS!!!— Widowed By PTSD (@WidowedbyPTSD) September 8, 2020