White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany raised eyebrows on Wednesday when she credulously compared President Donald Trump’s photo-op at St. John’s Episcopalian Church this week to Winston Churchill surveying World War II bombing damage and George W. Bush throwing out the first pitch after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Trump has faced widespread criticism—even from within his administration—over the political stunt, which featured him walking over to the so-called Church of the Presidents to pose with a Bible after law enforcement violently cleared out peaceful protesters with chemical munitions.
During Wednesday’s White House press briefing, McEnany repeatedly gave conflicting and contradictory answers on the forceful removal of the protest gathering moments before Trump’s stroll. While repeating the Park Police’s assertion that no tear gas was used—despite reporters and clergy on the ground insisting it had been—she also claimed the protesters were pushed out because they ignored warnings and threw bottles and bricks at the police.
At the same time, she said that the reason Attorney General William Barr gave orders for the Park Police to move protesters out before curfew and Trump’s walk as they “were not going to see the church burn another night.”
The press secretary was eventually confronted on why the president decided to go to the church—a moment that clergy have called “sacrilege,” because Trump used the church and Bible “as a prop.”
“The president wanted to send a powerful message that we won’t be overcome by looting, rioting, and burning,” she declared. “This defines America. Standing by St. John’s Church was very important to America.”
She then directly compared Trump’s photo-op to other iconic imagery by world leaders during crises over the past decades.
“Through all of time, we’ve seen presidents and leaders across the world who have had leadership moments and powerful symbols for a nation to see at any given time to show a message of resilience and determination,” McEnany exclaimed. “Like Churchill. We saw him with the bombing damage. George W. Bush throwing out the ceremonial first pitch after 9/11 and Jimmy Carter putting on a sweater to encourage energy savings and George H.W. Bush signing the Americans with Disabilities Act flanked by two disabled Americans.”
She concluded by boasting that Trump holding up the Bible was “hailed by Franklin Graham and others,” seemingly ignoring the widespread criticism Trump’s received by other faith leaders, specifically those involved with the church in question.
Asked about McEnany’s comparison of Trump’s photo-op to Churchill and Bush, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told CNN, “I think they’re hallucinating.”