Masks, birds and Italy dreams: this week on the US campaign trail

Washington (AFP) –


With fewer than 40 days before the US election, the race for the White House is in high gear, giving AFP the chance to select the strangest moments from a week on the campaign trail.

- Mask backwards -

On the chin or even on the neck, anti-virus masks are worn in all sorts of odd ways, but Joe Biden may have coined a new variation.

On the campaign trail in Wisconsin, the Democratic contender delivered a speech wearing a mask -- the problem was, it appeared to be on backwards. The campaign of President Donald Trump was quick to leap on the slip on social media.

The Republican president, who for a long time was reluctant to wear a mask in public, takes every opportunity to berate his opponent's mask-wearing, despite health authorities recommending it.

"Did you ever see a man who likes a mask as much as him?" Trump said at a rally.

"When he makes a speech he has it hanging down (from his ear), because, you know what, it gives him a feeling of security. You know what, if I was a psychiatrist...I'd say this guy has got some big issues."

- Bird flight -

Has Mother Nature got it in for Mike Pence? Flying back from a campaign meeting in New Hampshire, the vice president's plane was forced to make an emergency landing after hitting a bird.

The accident occurred just after take-off, when the bird was sucked into Air Force Two's right engine, forcing the pilot to turn back to the airport.

After an inspection of the damage, the vice president was forced to return to Washington on a different plane. It did not have any untoward encounters with wildlife.

- Sounds like Italy -

For Trump, the word "coronavirus," or "corona" in its abbreviated form, summons images of pasta, olive groves, basil and gondolas.

"Corona sounds like a place in Italy, a beautiful place," said the president, during a campaign stop in Jacksonville, Florida, insisting instead that "it's the China virus. It's not the coronavirus."

It was an unfortunate analogy however, since Italy is the second worst-hit country in Europe by the virus after Britain, with 35,781 deaths, according to an AFP toll on Friday.

- Small game -

The governor of rural South Dakota, an ally of Donald Trump, caused a stir on Wednesday when she put out a short video of herself standing in a corn field with a shotgun, hunting birds.

After blasting away at a passing bird, Kristi Noem said, "This is how we do social distancing in South Dakota."

"Less Covid, more hunting," she added at the end of the clip, which has been viewed more than 4.7 million times.

"Are you bonkers or just cruel?" retorted animal rights group the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), echoing widespread anger on social media. On the other hand, several Republican officials cheered her on.

Noem is one of the few US governors not to have imposed any restrictions or mask requirements during the pandemic on her state, which has suffered a spike in infections, according to US health authorities.