President Donald Trump traveled on Thursday to the crucial U.S. election battleground state of Michigan and visited a Ford Motor plant.
The move comes amid tensions with its Democratic governor Gretchen Whitmer during the ongoing coronavirus crisis. Trump opted not to wear a protective face mask for the cameras.
Trump toured the Ford plant, which has been reorganized to produce ventilators and personal protective equipment, and held a roundtable discussion.
When asked if Trump was informed it was acceptable not to wear a mask in the plant, Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford said, “It’s up to him.”
The company later stated that the chairman had “encouraged” Trump to wear a mask when he visited, adding that the President had obliged during a private viewing of three two-seater Ford GT sports cars.
In an interview with CNN, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel stated there would be a “very serious conversation” with the automaker for allowing the President to violate state governor Gretchen Whitmer’s executive order on masks.
The order is clear that any person who is medically able must wear a mask in enclosed public spaces.
“They knew exactly what the order was and if they permitted anyone, even the President of the United States, to defy that order, I think it has serious health consequences potentially to their employees,” Nessel, a Democrat, said.
Trump told Nessel on Twitter she shouldn’t be taking her anger out on Ford Motor.
“Not their fault, & I did put on a mask. No wonder many auto companies left Michigan, until I came along!”
Trump, seeking re-election on November 3, has urged states to loosen coronavirus restrictions in order to make economic recovery of the U.S., even as public health experts warn premature easing of restrictions could result in a second wave of infections.
Trump won in Michigan in the 2016 election, and became the first Republican to do so since 1988.