Politics // Politifact Texas
By Louis Jacobson, PolitiFact Sep. 21, 2020Updated: Sep. 21, 2020 7:10 a.m.
The claim: Trump’s security forces cleared protesters out of the president’s way in June “so he can walk across to a Protestant church and hold a Bible upside down.” — Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.
Biden made the statement in a Sept. 17 CNN town hall, in reference to Trump’s walk from the White House to the historic St. John’s Church on Lafayette Square. At the time, downtown Washington, D.C., was full of protesters following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.
PolitiFact ruling: Pants on Fire! This false claim spread on social media earlier this summer, without evidence, and made it into several news reports and opinion pieces. But fact-checkers debunked it as early as June, and a review of still images and video from that day show clearly that it is inaccurate. Trump held the Bible right-side up throughout the event.
Critics mostly blasted Trump for using tear gas to clear nonviolent protesters just before his walk to the church for a photo-op. But some on social media took aim at how Trump held the Bible.
For instance, novelist Stephen King tweeted, “Dear fundamentalist Christian Trump supporters: If Obama had held the Bible backwards and upside down, you would immediately have called him the Antichrist.” The tweet attracted more than 164,000 likes.
Biden has made the claim about the upside-down Bible before, even though fact-checkers had debunked it. The claim has also appeared in various news accounts about the church photo-op and social media posts.
Trump himself has previously denied that he held the Bible upside down.
What does the evidence show?
PolitiFact scrutinized a series of images from the Associated Press as well as raw video from NBC News, and the truth is clear: Trump held the Bible right-side up.
The Bible Trump held up had no writing on the front cover, so to viewers who couldn’t see the spine, it may have looked like he was holding it upside down and backwards. But there are several AP images that clearly show the spine right-side up.
In the most iconic photos taken of the event, it is a little harder to read the spine, but the free end of the ribbon bookmark clearly dangles below the Bible, which is how it was when the Bible was oriented correctly in the other images.
Video of the event confirmed that Trump consistently held the Bible right-side up. In fact, at several points he appears to look down on it to make sure that he’s holding it correctly.
The Biden campaign did not respond to an inquiry for this article.
PolitiFact is a fact-checking project to help you sort out fact from fiction in politics. Truth-O-Meter ratings are determined by a panel of three editors. The burden of proof is on the speaker, and PolitiFact rates statements based on the information known at the time the statement is made.