Donald Trump ordered a reporter to remove his face mask but the journalist refused during a showdown at the White House. The US president cut off Reuters' Jeff Mason, despite the reporter speaking clearly, to tell him his question was too muffled. Despite Trump becoming visibly irritated by his subsequent refusal to take off his mask in the press pool, Mason simply raised his voice even louder. After he'd initially begun speaking, Trump said: "You're going to have to take that off, please. You can take it off. How many feet are you away?"
When Mason said he would instead speak louder, the president said: "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."
However, Mason stood his ground and raised his voice, asking: "Is that better?" to which Trump rolled his eyes and answered "yeah".
Later, when another reporter did remove his mask to speak, the president told him: "You sound so clear." Trump clashed with Mason in May in a similar debate, telling him he was attempting to be "politically correct" by keeping his mask on. The president wasn't photographed in public in a mask until mid-July during a visit to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, having previously said there was no need for them. At the time, Trump insisted he has "never been against masks" but, in April had said: "I don't think I'm going to be doing it. Wearing a face mask as I greet presidents, prime ministers, dictators, kings, queens - I just don't see it."
It comes after he urged supporters at a rally in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, on Thursday to wear masks over the Labour Day holiday weekend before chiding Democratic rival Joe Biden for "liking" them too much. The pair upped their rhetoric yesterday as the presidential campaign entered its traditional homestretch. Trump described Biden, whom he trails in national polls, as a threat to the economy and "stupid," while Biden took aim at Trump's reported disparaging of fallen troops.
At a White House news conference, Trump said: "Biden and his very liberal running mate (Kamala Harris), the most liberal person in Congress by the way - is not a competent person, in my opinion, would destroy this country and would destroy this economy."
Trump also pushed back again against a report in The Atlantic that he had referred to fallen U.S. soldiers as "suckers" and "losers," calling it "a hoax." The story has dominated news coverage for days and threatens Trump's support among veterans and military members, a key voting bloc.
"There's nobody that has more respect for not only our military but for people that gave their lives in the military," Trump said.
Biden cited the reported remarks while campaigning in Pennsylvania. Referring to his son Beau Biden, who served in Iraq as a member of the Delaware National Guard and died of brain cancer in 2015, he said: "Beau wasn't a loser or a sucker...He served with heroes."
Trump has struggled to change the contours of the campaign despite highly charged rhetoric on racial polarization and "law and order".