When President Trump arrived at a Ford plant in Michigan on Thursday, Executive Chairman Bill Ford asked him to wear a mask, and the president said yes, Ford sources told CBS News. But during a, the president did not wear a mask, saying he only did so for a brief period away from the press.
The expectation was that the commander-in-chief would wear a mask for the entire visit, and Ford officials were "surprised" when he didn't, the sources said. Mr. Trump told reporters during the visit he was "given the choice" by Ford to wear one or not, but the sources said no one from Ford told him that.
When Mr. Trump took off the mask, the chairman felt compelled to not object, the sources said. When a reporter asked if he was ok with the president not wearing a mask, Ford replied, "It's his choice."
Ford's policy is that everyone wear personal protective equipment on the premises, and Ford said it informed the White House of that policy ahead of Mr. Trump's visit.
The president told reporters Thursday he did wear a mask for a portion of the visit, and TMZ obtained an unverified picture of the president wearing a mask. But Mr. Trump also told reporters he didn't want to give them the satisfaction of seeing him wearing a mask, after weeks of questions from the media about the president's mask-wearing habits or lack thereof.
"I had one on before, I wore one on in this back area. I didn't want to give the press the pleasure of seeing it," the president said.
Michigan's attorney general criticized the president for failing to wear a mask for much of the visit.
"I am ashamed to have him be president of the United States of America," Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said Thursday. "I hope that the voters of Michigan will remember this... He didn't respect them enough just to engage in the very simple task, the painless task, the easy task of wearing a mask."
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer told MSNBC's Rachel Maddow in an interview after the president's visit that "it wasn't surprising, but it was disappointing" that he was not seen wearing a mask. She observed that the video from the event showed "all of the Ford executives wore the masks," in addition to all of the employees and all of the press.
Members of the United Auto Workers are worried about their safety, Whitmer explained, and the head of the union, Rory Gambles has worked with the big three automakers "to make sure that his members would be safe when they went back to the workplace." She argued that "anyone with a platform has a responsibility to make sure they model precisely what we're asking everyone else to do. This is about public health, not one person's or another. This is about all of us. And anyone in a position of power and responsibility, I hope emulates and does precisely what they're asking everyone else to do."
Mr. Trump has been criticized in recent weeks for declining to wear a mask, despite CDC guidance that people wear masks in public. The White House has explained this by saying the president is tested regularly for the virus and the tests have been negative — although tests can return false positives and miss early detection of the virus.
Jack Turman contributed to this article.