Timeline: Joe Biden’s Repeated Flip-flops on a Nationwide Mask Mandate

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden joined by his running mate Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., replaces his face mask after speaking at the Hotel DuPont in Wilmington, Del., Thursday, Aug. 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

Democratic nominee Joe Biden on Wednesday said that he would implement nationwide mask mandates if elected president — a vow that reflects yet another flip-flop for the former vice president, who has both called for nationwide mask mandates and denied doing so, even calling the idea unconstitutional.

On Wednesday, just hours ahead of the vice presidential debate, Biden listed a few of the actions he would take to combat the Chinese coronavirus as president, one of which included implementing “nationwide” mask mandates:

Biden’s definitive call for a nationwide mask mandate reflects yet another flip-flop on the former vice president’s part, as he has called for a nationwide mask mandate on several occasions despite denying that he did.

June 26, 2020: Biden told Pittsburgh CBS affiliate KDKA that he would leverage federal power to “mandate” masks, telling the outlet that he would “do everything possible to make it required that people had to wear masks in public.”

“The one thing we do know, these masks make a gigantic difference. I would insist that everybody out in public be wearing that mask,” he said. “Anyone to reopen — would have to make sure that they walked in their business that had masks.”

Q: Couldn’t you use the federal leverage to mandate that, though?

Biden: Yes.

Q: Would you?

Biden: Yes, I would from an executive standpoint, yes, I would.

August 13, 2020: Biden said every American should wear a mask, even outdoors, for the next three months.

“Let’s institute a mask mandate nationwide,” he said during a virtual briefing.

“Every single American should be wearing a mask when they are outside for the next three months at a minimum,” Biden said, adding that “every governor should mandate mandatory mask-wearing”:

August 15, 2020: Biden’s campaign deployed coronavirus-focused ads calling for a nationwide mask mandate “starting immediately.”

“Joe Biden knows we need to listen to medical experts and take action now,” the voiceover stated. “That starts by expanding testing, calling for mask mandates nationwide starting immediately, and producing more protective gear here at home.”

August 20, 2020: Biden, during his Democratic National Convention nomination acceptance speech, vowed a nationwide mask mandate if elected president.

“We’ll have a national mandate to wear a mask,” the former vice president said.

August 28, 2020: Biden’s running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), clarified that the nationwide mask mandate they seek to implement across the country is not actually enforceable with punishment. Rather, it is more of a “standard,” she said.

“You devoted a fair amount of your speech to the [COVID-19] virus. And you talked about the national mask mandate. It sounds like that would be one of the first orders of business,” NBC Today’s Craig Melvin asked, prompting a “yes” from the senator.

“How would you enforce that?” he asked.

“It’s really — it’s a standard. Nobody’s going to be punished. Come on,” Harris said. “Nobody likes to wear a mask.”

“This is a universal feeling. Right? So that’s not the point. Hey, let’s enjoy wearing masks. No. The point is this is what we as responsible people who love our neighbor, we have to just do that right now,” she added. “God willing it won’t be forever.”

September 2, 2020: Biden backtracked on his call to compel everyone across the country to wear a mask, proclaiming to be a “constitutionalist.”

He denied that he made the proposal and stated that he would instead “ask every person in authority” to implement a mask mandate and “put as much pressure as I could” on them.

“I’m a constitutionalist,” Biden proclaimed. “You can’t do things the Constitution doesn’t allow you the power to do”:

September 7, 2020: Biden admitted that it would be unconstitutional to implement a sweeping nationwide mask mandate at the executive level.

“There’s a constitutional issue whether the federal government can issue such a mandate,” the presidential hopeful told Arizona’s CBS 5:

“I don’t think constitutionally they could, so I wouldn’t issue a mandate,” he said.

September 11, 2020: The Biden campaign released an ad encouraging Americans to “do your part” and “wear a mask”:

September 17, 2020: Biden said he would institute a mask mandate from the executive level and apply it to those on federal land, although he, again, added that he would not be able to do the same at the national level.

“I cannot mandate people wearing masks. … I would call every governor in the country into the White House, say, you should be putting mandates out,” he said during CNN’s town hall.

“And if they don’t, I’d call the mayors in their towns, in their cities and say, put out mandates,” he continued.

Biden even floated fines for those who defied the order on federal land.

“I would like to see the governors enforce mask-wearing, period. I can do that on federal property. As president, I will do that. On federal land, I’d have the authority. If you’re on federal land, you must wear a mask, in a federal building, you must wear a mask,” Biden said.

“And we could have a fine for them not doing it. Look, this is about saving people’s lives. There’s no question that it saves people’s lives,” he added:

October 7, 2020: Biden said in a tweet that he would, as president, “implement nationwide mask mandates”:

Biden’s back and forth position comes as he continues to call for Americans across the country to wear masks, despite going without one himself on several occasions. One such example came September 18, as Biden spoke face to face with Pennsylvania firefighters following CNN’s town hall:

Days earlier, Biden went maskless after delivering a speech on climate change in Delaware, answering questions from the press without a covering over his face:

Biden is not the only Democrat to engage in such brazen acts of hypocrisy, as Breitbart News’s Joel Pollak detailed.

“Other examples of mask hypocrisy abound. There’s Nancy Pelosi in the hair salon; Virginia’s Gov. Ralph Northam on the boardwalk; New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo walking his dog; Rep. Harley Rouda on a private beach; Beto O’Rourke jogging,” he wrote.

On October 5, Biden tweeted a side-by-side video comparing himself to the president, who took his mask off after arriving at the White House following his weekend stay Walter Reed for coronavirus-related treatment and monitoring. The president was outside at the time, and no one was within close proximity:

Harris, who will face off with Vice President Mike Pence Wednesday night, has used her social media account to push the mass use of masks nationwide in recent days:

In August, President Trump mocked his opponent’s plans to combat the Wuhan virus — plans which, as of Wednesday, included nationwide mask mandates — remarking, “Sleepy Joe rejects the scientific approach in favor of locking all Americans in their basements for months on end.”

“If the president has the unilateral power to order every single citizen to cover their face in nearly all instances, what other powers does he have?” Trump pondered.

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