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June 30, 2020, 7:02 p.m. EDT

Republican leaders — with one notable exception — urge wearing face masks

As coronavirus cases surge, Sen. Lamar Alexander urges Trump to set a good example

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By Associated Press


Associated Press
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., listens to questions during a news conference Tuesday on Capitol Hill.

WASHINGTON — In Republican circles — with the notable exception of the man who leads the party — the debate about masks is over: It’s time to put one on.

As a surge of infections hammers the South and West, GOP officials are pushing back against the notion that masks are about politics, as President Donald Trump suggests, and telling Americans they can help save lives.

Sen. Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee Republican, on Tuesday bluntly called on Trump to start wearing a mask, at least some of the time, to set a good example.

“Unfortunately, this simple, lifesaving practice has become part of a political debate that says: If you’re for Trump, you don’t wear a mask. If you’re against Trump, you do,” Alexander said.

It’s a rare break for Republicans from Trump, who earlier this month told the Wall Street Journal that some people wear masks simply to show that they disapprove of him. And the Republican nudges for the public — and the president — to embrace mask-wearing are coming from all corners of Trump’s party and even from friendly conservative media.

Both Vice President Mike Pence and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in recent days have urged Americans to wear one when they are unable to maintain social distance. Sen. Mitt Romney, a Utah Republican, told reporters it would be “very helpful” for Trump to encourage mask usage.

“Put on a mask — it’s not complicated,” McConnell, R-Ky., urged Americans during his weekly news conference Tuesday.

Last week, Republican Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming tweeted a photo of her father, former Vice President Dick Cheney, wearing a disposable mask and a cowboy hat. She included the message: “Dick Cheney says WEAR A MASK #realmenwearmasks,” a hashtag that echoed words spoken earlier by the Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Steve Doocy, co-host of a Trump friendly morning show “Fox & Friends,” said during an interview with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy that he doesn’t “see any downside in the president being seen more often wearing it.”

McCarthy, R-Calif., responded that, for the upcoming holiday, “we could all show our patriotism with a red, white and blue mask.”

Jacksonville, the Florida city where Trump is scheduled to accept his renomination as Republicans’ presidential candidate in August, announced a mask requirement for indoor public spaces this week. The president’s eldest son said the new requirements were no big deal.

“You know, I don’t think that it’s too complicated to wear a mask or wash your hands and follow basic hygiene protocols,” Donald Trump Jr. told Fox Business on Tuesday.

Trump aides have defended the president’s refusal to wear a mask by noting that he is regularly tested for the coronavirus, as are his aides. Those outside the administration — including White House visitors and members of the media who are in close proximity to him and Pence — are also tested.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany didn’t directly address Republican calls for Trump to wear a mask in public more often, but noted that the president has said in the past he has no problem wearing one when necessary.

But even with safeguards, the virus has found its way into the White House. A top aide to Pence, as well as a military valet to Trump, in May tested positive for the virus.

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