Right-wing media attack faith leaders for criticism of police brutality around Trump's church photo-op

Bill O’Reilly called a priest “clueless,” and Raheem Kassam accused an Episcopal bishop of having never “picked up a Bible”

Donald Trump and Mariann Budde

Right-wing media figures including Fox News host Laura Ingraham attacked religious leaders who criticized President Donald Trump after law enforcement officers tear-gassed protestors to disperse them so he could take a photo in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C. They claimed that the Rt. Rev. Mariann Budde, the Episcopal bishop of Washington, has not “ever picked up a Bible” and that Wilton D. Gregory, the archbishop of Washington, is “a fraud” who “does not understand fundamental Catholic teachings.”

On June 1, Trump delivered a speech from the Rose Garden in which he threatened to mobilize “thousands and thousands” of “heavily armed” military personnel to quell protests over the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police. While he was speaking, law enforcement officers fired tear gas and rubber bullets at peaceful protesters in Lafayette Square to clear a path for Trump to walk to the nearby St. John’s Church.

A day after this show of excessive force, Trump and first lady Melania Trump visited St. John Paul II National Shrine for a tour and to take photos in front of a statue of the eponymous pope. 

Following these incidents, Budde, Gregory, and several other religious leaders rebuked Trump. In an interview with The Washington Post, Budde noted that she had not been given any notice of Trump’s visit and said, “Everything he has said and done is to inflame violence.” 

Gregory also issued a statement condemning Trump’s visit to the National Shrine:

Saint Pope John Paul II was an ardent defender of the rights and dignity of human beings. His legacy bears vivid witness to that truth. He certainly would not condone the use of tear gas and other deterrents to silence, scatter or intimidate them for a photo opportunity in front of a place of worship and peace.

Right-wing media figures claim faith leaders have never “picked up a Bible” and are “clueless” 

  • Former Fox host Bill O'Reilly
  • Fox host Laura Ingraham
  • Counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway on Fox News
Video file

Citation From the June 2, 2020, edition of Fox News' Outnumbered 

HARRIS FAULKNER (HOST): You know, you mentioned that church, and there are other churches too that people are talking about today. They want to see them protected. The Bishop [Mariann Budde] of the Episcopal Diocese Church of Washington, which includes St. John's, where the president walked to yesterday, is actually, Kellyanne, going after the president's photo-op, saying, “He used her church as a backdrop and the Bible as a prop." Let's watch, and then I want to see what you have to say after you see this. 


KELLYANNE CONWAY (COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT): That is not, quote, “her church." That is not, quote, “her Bible." We don't look into other peoples' hearts and souls and -- and discern and judge what their faith is, why the president felt compelled to walk there, why he held that bible up. That is a symbol to everyone that we will not allow arsonists and anarchists who set that fire ablaze, who really, I think, demean the memory of those who have lost their lives in the name of their respective faith and religions. We won't allow them to dissuade us from practicing our religion.

  • National Pulse Editor-in-Chief Raheem Kassam
  • Daily Caller reporter Mary Margaret Olohan
  • Right-wing pundit and former NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch
  • National Review writer Alexandra DeSanctis