The Trump campaign has purchased thousands of branded masks for surrogates but won’t add them to the collection of Trump keychains and coffee mugs sold on the campaign website.
Members of Black Voices for Trump told BuzzFeed News there were two official campaign offerings: a red neoprene mask and a newer navy canvas version with the "Trump 2020" logo. Staffers distributed the masks to surrogates who attended the president's June rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Those masks, though, have not been made widely available to the public. There was never a plan to sell the masks on the website, a campaign official told BuzzFeed News.
The decision to not market "Trump 2020" masks is a break from a president who has lauded himself as an astute businessperson — one who’s sold all manner of branded items, up to and including 2016’s red hats. After all, it was the brainchild of this very campaign that raised $500,000 in a single week from selling Trump-engraved plastic straws. The move was a clear rebuke to cities substituting plastic straws for paper ones; it remains on the site a year later with a content description that reads, “Liberal paper straws don’t work. STAND WITH PRESIDENT TRUMP and buy your pack of recyclable straws today.”
Even Joe Biden’s campaign is selling masks.
Nobody from the Trump campaign will explain the decision to not sell its own masks, even as online sellers who peddle unauthorized versions of "Trump 2020" masks say they’re blowing out of stock.
"The only reason I know they’re not selling the masks is because everyone keeps asking me, 'Where are the masks?' and I’m like, go to the website, and they’re like, 'Oh, well, I can’t find any,'" Cecilia Johnson of Black Voices for Trump said in an interview with BuzzFeed News.
So the idea of a tycoon not using a pandemic to maximize his earnings seems like a bad business move — unless you consider the president’s approach on the mask debate amid the coronavirus pandemic thus far. He’s been relatively silent until recently.
For months, the president has been criticized for slow-walking his coronavirus response. But what was particularly obvious was his refusal to wear a mask and, until this week, his unwillingness to advise Americans to wear one — even as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended people do so as early as April.
The nation saw its leader speak cautiously about the benefits of wearing a mask. Trump just last month called masks a “double-edged sword,” which seemed to point to his personal concerns around the cleanliness of handling masks worn all day. In the same interview, he said he’s “OK with it.”
This month, during a Fox interview, Trump made it clear he has no interest in mandating masks. This is a point many lawmakers from the states now experiencing upticks in COVID-19 cases have struggled with as well. As have his own surrogates, including Diamond and Silk, who likened any mandate of masks to “Communist China” and...slavery.
Asked about mandating masks during Sunday's Fox interview, Trump said, "No. I want people to have a certain freedom, and I don't believe in that. No."
But he donned a mask during his visit to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on July 11 and tweeted Monday he was being “patriotic” by wearing it. (He did mention the “Invisible China Virus” in the tweet.)
Then, in a stunning about-face, on Tuesday at his coronavirus press briefing, the president told reporters: “We're asking everybody that when you are not able to socially distance, wear a mask. Get a mask. Whether you like the mask or not, they have an impact. They’ll have an effect.”
Five minutes later, the president, who for this briefing mainly read from his notes, doubled down: “We're instead asking Americans to use masks, socially distance, and employ vigorous hygiene.”
And then, within moments of his press conference — with possibly more impact than he has at the podium, he tweeted it.
The campaign has not responded to several requests as to whether it'll change course and add the Trump masks to the campaign site's offerings. There’s certainly a demand. Just ask @isleofcapri777, who inquired about one on Twitter last week.