Donald Trump’s photo opportunity at a church has been compared to Winston Churchill’s leadership during the Blitz by the White House press secretary.
The president has been criticised by opposition Democrats and members of his own Republican party after peaceful anti-racism protesters were forcibly cleared so he could pose with a Bible in front of St John’s Church, in Washington DC, on Monday.
The church was damaged by fire during a protest.
Speaking about the images, his press secretary Kayleigh McEnany compared it to the UK’s wartime leader who was photographed inspecting damage to buildings from German bombs.
“Through all of time, we’ve seen presidents and leaders across the world who have had leadership moments and very powerful symbols that were important for our nation to see at any given time to show a message of resilience and determination,” she said.
“Like Churchill, we saw him inspecting the bombing damage and it sent a powerful message of leadership to the British people.”
Churchill would watch bombing raids from rooftops and then deliberately walked the streets where the munitions fell.
The attacks killed thousands of people.
Erik Larson, author of The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz, criticised the comparison.
The comparison is worse than merely laughable; it verges on obscenity. Churchill wept when he visited bombed neighborhoods; he offered compassion and hope, and helped people find their courage. https://t.co/RLXp6GTCuR— Erik Larson (@exlarson) June 3, 2020
Protests have been held throughout the US and the world after George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis.
He died after a white police officer was seen pinning him to the ground by kneeling on his neck.
The demonstrations have been overwhelmingly peaceful but pockets of violence have at times emerged, and Trump has chosen to use aggressive rhetoric in response, including a threat to deploy the military.
His rival for the presidency in the upcoming election, Democrat Joe Biden, said Trump is “part of the problem and accelerates it” and is “consumed with his blinding ego”.
He dismissed the images of Trump holding a bible as a “photo op”, noting it caused authorities to clear protesters around the White House so he could travel to it.
“The president held up a Bible,” Biden added.
“I just wished he opened it once in awhile instead of brandishing it.”
The photo has been criticised by Republicans, with Nebraska senator Ben Sasse saying he was “against clearing out a peaceful protest for a photo op that treats the word of God as a political prop”, and Maine senator Susan Collins said the US leader came off as “unsympathetic and insensitive”.