D.C. bishop 'outraged' Trump used tear gas on citizens for photo op at church

Mariann Budde, the bishop for the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, D.C., called into Anderson Cooper 360 Monday night and railed against President Trump for staging a visit to St. John’s Church near the White House. As Trump prepared to speak in the Rose Garden, police in riot gear began violently removing peaceful protesters, who were standing with their arms raised, and using tear gas, to disperse the crowd so that Trump could safely make it to the church where he posed with a Bible for a photo op. 

“The president just used a Bible, the most sacred text of the Judeo-Christian religion, and one of the churches of my diocese without permission, as a backdrop for a message antithetical to the teachings of Jesus and everything that our churches stand for,” Budde said. “And to do so … he sanctioned the use of tear gas by police officers in riot gear to clear the church yard. I am outraged.”

In Trump’s Rose Garden statement, he threatened to deploy the military across the country to “dominate the streets,” and Budde wanted to make clear that her diocese does not back the president’s message.

“I just want the world to know that we in the Diocese of Washington, following Jesus and his way of love, do not — we distance ourselves from the incendiary language of this president,” Budde said. “ We follow someone who lived a life on nonviolence and sacrificial love. We align ourselves with those seeking justice for the death of George Floyd and countless others through the sacred act of peaceful protest. And I just can’t believe what my eyes have seen tonight.”

Speaking to the Washington Post earlier in the day, Budde said that the church was simply used as a prop, something she also inferred about Trump holding the Bible, and she lamented these sacred symbols being used in such a way.

“What I am here to talk about is the abuse of sacred symbols for the people of faith in this country to justify language, rhetoric, an approach to this crisis that is antithetical to everything we stand for,” Budde said, “everything that this faith stands for.”

Anderson Cooper was trending Monday night for comments he’d made before Budde called in. CNN’s Kaitlin Collins reported that Trump only did the photo op at the church because he didn’t like the negative press he received for sheltering in the White House bunker on Friday as protests raged outside. Collins reported that he wanted to be seen outside the gates, though surrounded by police, the National Guard and the Secret Service.

“He’s hiding in a bunker and he’s embarrassed that people know that, so what does he have to do?” Cooper said. “He has to sick police on peaceful protesters so he can make a big show of being the little big man walking to a closed down church.”

Trump has criticized the response to protests in some areas, even claiming that the world is laughing at those responsible, but Cooper believes it’s Trump’s actions that are both laughable and sad at the same time.

“He always talks about the world laughing, that the world is laughing at the governors right now. The only people that the world is laughing at is the president of the United States,” Cooper said, “and this event, as I said, if it wasn’t so dangerous and disgusting, it would be funny because it is so low-rent and just sad.”

Anderson Cooper 360 airs weeknights at 8 p.m. on CNN.

Watch Don Lemon’s fiery rant about Trump’s response to the protests: ‘No on wants to hear from the birther-in-chief’:

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