President Donald Trump appeared to tell a sullen First Lady Melania Trump to smile during their visit to the Saint John Paul II National Shrine in Washington D.C. on Tuesday. In a video captured of their visit, Trump and his wife paused to have their photos taken, but while the president was eager to smile for the cameras, Melania was not. Seeming to take notice of her stoic expression, Trump could be seen briefly speaking to his wife before the posing resumed, Melania forcing a smile before they walked away from the cameras.
As many social media users pointed out, the first lady’s smile didn't seem quite as genuine as the president may have liked. Responding to the clip, one person wrote that "she can't even fake it," while another quipped that "her reaction is a lot to unpack." Several others expressed concern, one person asking "is she alright? Because she doesn't look it." Somebody else said that they believed the first lady looked "trapped" and "terrified."
Trump asks Melania to smile during today's photo op. pic.twitter.com/B59YeDHKRM— The Recount (@therecount) June 2, 2020
The Tuesday visit marked the president’s second visit to a religious site in the span of a day and followed his Monday visit to the historic St John's Episcopal Church, widely revered as the "church of presidents." After announcing plans to mobilize federal resources, including civilian and military, and the gathered crowd of peaceful protesters being cleared with tear gas, rubber bullets, and other shows of force, the president and several others made their way to the church, where is briefly posed for a photo-op with a Bible. He did not go inside the building and failed to give much commentary.
His visits to religious sites have been widely condemned by church officials. Addressing the president's visit to the Saint John Paul II National Shrine as well as the Monday incident, Washington Archbishop Wilton Gregory said that it was "baffling and reprehensible that any Catholic facility would allow itself to be so egregiously misused and manipulated in a fashion that violates our religious principles," according to MarketWatch. He added that St. John Paul II, who was pope from 1978 to 2005, "was an ardent defender of the rights and dignity of human beings" and "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."
Episcopal Diocese Washington Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde also expressed her outrage following the president's visit to St John's Episcopal Church, stating that she "just can't believe what my eyes have seen." Budde pointed out that Trump "did not pray when he came to St. John's, nor as you just articulated, did he acknowledge the agony of our country right now" and instead chose to share "a message antithetical to the teachings of Jesus."