KEY POINTS

  • Kayleigh McEnany said President Donald Trump's Bible photo can be compared to former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill's WWII bomb site inspections
  • Nancy Pelosi said, "I think they’re hallucinating," about the comparison
  • Trump's photo-op at the St. John’s Church received criticisms, but Republicans continue to defend the president

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany's statement Wednesday (June 3) drew scornful reactions from the critics of President Donald Trump’s administration after she compared his photo opportunity in front of St. John’s Church on Monday (June 1) to former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill's inspection of the London bombing sites during World War II.

Trump had taken a photograph in front of the church while holding up a Bible, following a weekend of violent protests.

“Through all of time, we have seen presidents and leaders across the world who have had leadership moments and very powerful symbols that were important for a nation to see at any given time to show a message of resilience and determination,” the press secretary said during the press conference. "Like Churchill, we saw him inspecting the bombing damage. It sent a powerful message of leadership to the British people."

Speaker Nancy Pelosi told CNN, “I think they’re hallucinating,” after McEnany compared Trump's controversial visit near the Lafayette Square to the leadership of Churchill.

US President Donald Trump holds up a bible in front of St John's Episcopal church after walking across Lafayette Park from the White House in Washington, DC on June 1, 2020 President Donald Trump holds up a bible in front of St John's Episcopal church after walking across Lafayette Park from the White House in Washington, D.C. on June 1, 2020. Photo: AFP / Brendan Smialowski

Pelosi responded briefly to the press secretary’s statements as she joined a crowd protesting George Floyd’s wrongful death. Some said Pelosi was at the protest for the cameras, while others defended the speaker’s participation.

"I thought it was great to see her out here, showing solidarity, trying to lend her support, encouragement to the crowd," Sally Roemer said.

Meanwhile, McEnany also said Trump's Bible photo was "widely hailed" by his supporters, including evangelical leaders, while Democrats expectedly gave it a thumbs down, especially after reports revealed the police forcibly dispersed protesters near Lafayette Square to clear the way for the president to get to the church.

"It was a necessary security measure," Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), said of the dispersal, adding, the crowd refused to give way and "ignored what law enforcement officers are telling them to do for the security of the president or anybody else.”

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden also criticized the controversial Bible photo.

"When peaceful protesters are dispersed by the order of the President from the doorstep of the people's house, the White House — using tear gas and flash grenades — in order to stage a photo op at a noble church, we can be forgiven for believing that the President is more interested in power than in principle," Biden said.

However, a few Republicans spoke up against Trump's Bible photo op.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), said via Politico, the president came off as "unsympathetic and as insensitive to the rights of people to peaceful protest." Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), and Sen. James Lankford, (R-Okla.), were against the move to clear protesters with tear gas just for a photo op.

“Every public servant in America should be lowering the temperature," Sasse said.