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Brave face: Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden salutes veterans while walking with his wife Jill at the Delaware Memorial Bridge Veteran’s Memorial Park in Newcastle, Delaware

Brave face: Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden salutes veterans while walking with his wife Jill at the Delaware Memorial Bridge Veteran’s Memorial Park in Newcastle, Delaware

AFP via Getty Images

Brave face: Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden salutes veterans while walking with his wife Jill at the Delaware Memorial Bridge Veteran’s Memorial Park in Newcastle, Delaware

Hours after President Donald Trump was spotted at public Memorial Day remembrances without a face mask, he jumped on Twitter to retweet a Fox News commentator criticising his Democratic opponent Joe Biden for wearing one.

"This might help explain why Trump doesn't like to wear a mask in public," Brit Hume, Fox News's senior political analyst tweeted Monday evening, sharing a picture of Mr Biden at a Delaware veterans memorial earlier that day.

In the photo, which documents Mr Biden's first public appearance since mid-March, most of the 77-year-old's face is obscured by a black mask and a pair of Ray-Ban aviator sunglasses.

Mr Hume's tweet sparked instant backlash from a number of critics on the left. By early yesterday, Mr Hume was still trending on Twitter as detractors questioned whether he valued Mr Biden looking "cool" more than encouraging efforts to slow the spread of the deadly coronavirus that has now killed more than 98,000 Americans.

President Trump, however, appeared unbothered by the outcry and shared the tweet to his 80.2 million followers on Monday night.

Mr Trump's retweet came at the end of a holiday weekend defined by duelling optics.

As officials urged social distancing and the number of reported Covid-19 deaths in the US crept closer to 100,000, viral photos and videos emerged showing beaches, pool parties and raceways packed with crowds raucously celebrating the long weekend.

But the contrasting approaches to Memorial Day appeared most obvious in the actions of the nation's leaders - the president and the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee - as they paid public tributes on Monday to lives lost in past wars.

Mr Trump, who has largely steered clear of being seen in public and at the White House wearing a mask, was barefaced as he participated in a wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery and while speaking later at Fort McHenry in Baltimore.

At Arlington, Mr Trump was joined by First Lady Melania Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and Defence Secretary Mark Esper - all of whom were seen without masks.

Meanwhile, Mr Biden and his wife, both wearing black masks, left their neighbourhood for the first time in more than two months to lay a wreath at the Delaware Memorial Bridge Veteran's Memorial Park. Members of Mr Biden's staff and security detail also sported face coverings during the outing.

For many, the conflicting images of Mr Trump and Mr Biden marked yet another flash point in the ongoing culture war over the practice of wearing masks, which has become widely politicised as Republicans and Democrats have clashed over how to reopen the country amid the pandemic.

Protests and incidents of violence have grown nationwide as some call orders mandating face coverings government overreach. A handful of Republican leaders, meanwhile, including North Dakota governor Doug Burgum and Ohio governor Mike DeWine, have implored their constituents to not view the face coverings as political statements, but rather as a necessary tool to help contain the virus.

"I would really love to see in North Dakota that we could just skip this thing that other parts of the nation are going through, where they're creating a divide - either it's ideological or political or something - around mask versus no mask," Mr Burgum said.

Mr Trump found himself at the centre of the escalating debate over masks for calling out Mr Biden while simultaneously praising the former vice president's decision to adhere to official health guidelines.

"Presidents lead by example, and wearing a mask helps protect others," TJ Ducklo, a Biden campaign spokesman, said.

"Donald Trump should try it, because his failure to act early on producing [personal protective equipment], on ramping up testing, and implementing a coherent national response to this crisis has cost thousands of Americans their lives."

Irish Independent