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According to The Wall Street Journal, the campaign considered ordering the masks to hand out in exchange for donations. Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh said: “We have data that shows all Americans, seniors included, can see the president’s leadership on the coronavirus." He added that "[w]hen America begins its comeback, voters will respond.”
Playboy correspondent Brian Karem and others pointed to a "Saturday Night Live" skit that had joked about the administration pushing "Make America Great Again" masks.
Some also suggested that Trump has misplaced priorities in ordering campaign masks -- but not providing enough masks for the country amid the pandemic. White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany defended the administration's response on Friday, pointing to the millions of masks the country delivered during the pandemic.
"The fact that, in the average year, the healthcare industry uses 25 million N95 masks, and we have delivered in this short time 75 million N95 masks -- more than three times what the healthcare sector uses in a year -- that’s extraordinary," she said.
"Seems like bad political strategy to slap your logo on an item that reminds voters you oversaw the largest mass casualty event in modern history," pollster Matt McDermott tweeted.
White House adviser Jared Kushner recently defended the administration's pandemic response as a "success story." McEnany doubled down on that characterization, saying Trump "[...] was talking about the story of this administration, which is a story of mobilization for the American people, the greatest mobilization of American industry since World War II."
The Trump campaign has reportedly criticized fake merchandise that resembled the masks. "This is FAKE," campaign manager Brad Parscale tweeted at the beginning of April. "Leave it to a former DEMOCRAT candidate for Congress to come up with this crap."
The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to Fox News' request for comment.
The controversy came as Vice President Mike Pence faced backlash for not wearing a face mask during his visit to the Mayo Clinic this week. His wife, Karen Pence, claimed he only learned about Mayo's mask requirement after leaving the facility. Mayo Clinic, in a now-deleted tweet, claimed otherwise.