President Donald Trump is standing by his decision to pose with a Bible outside St John’s Church in Washington on Monday ― a stunt that drew swift and harsh rebukes from two of the city’s top prelates.
“Most religious leaders loved it,” Trump insisted in a Fox News radio interview about a photo shoot that took place after law enforcement officers forcefully dispersed a peaceful demonstration against the police killing of George Floyd.
“I think it was very symbolic. I did hold up a Bible. I think that’s a good thing, not a bad thing, and many religious leaders loved it,” Trump told the show’s host, Fox anchor Brian Kilmeade, on Wednesday.
“Why wouldn’t they love it? I’m standing in front of a church that went through trauma ― to put it mildly,” Trump said.
Trump pointed specifically to the support he’s received from evangelist Franklin Graham and Robert Jeffress, a Dallas pastor, for posing in front of the historic Episcopal church, which was damaged during Sunday protests against police brutality toward Black Americans.
Trump also tried to distance himself from the aggressive maneuvers used by police to clear protesters from Lafayette Square, a park near St. John’s Church, to allow Trump passage to the photo op. The president insisted that officers didn’t use tear gas on the protesters, although they did, at least according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s definition of tear gas and other riot control agents.
“They didn’t use tear gas. They didn’t use ― they moved them out,” Trump said. “Now when I went, I didn’t say move them out. I didn’t know who was there.”
In a Facebook post that avoided any mention of the force used on protesters, Graham said that he was “not at all” offended by Trump’s actions. Graham said Trump demonstrated that the “burning, looting, and vandalism of the nation’s capital — including this historic house of worship—mattered, and that the lawlessness had to...