According to reports from both the New York Times and the Daily Mail, Hope Hicks, who now serves as counselor to the president, was the brains behind having Donald Trump leisurely stroll from the White House over to St. John's church for a photo-op that has turned into a public relations disaster for the administration.
That photo-op, where the president held up a Bible in front of the fire-damaged church, has been roundly criticized after the cable networks ran split screens of peaceful protesters being chased off by law enforcement officials, who marched on them while blanketing the area with tear gas.
The reports state that Hicks, who once served as the White House Communications Director before leaving to work for the Fox Corporation before returning, came up with the publicity stunt that was televised on national TV.
According to the Daily Mail, "Longtime Donald Trump aide Hope Hicks has been identified as having helped hatch the plan to have the president walk across the street from the White House to pose in front of St. John's church – staged event that police and National Guard forces facilitated by using tear gas and rubber bullets to clear away peaceful protesters," with the report adding, "As a PR move it may have backfired, after global and national media broadcast images of shield-bearing and mounted police using force to clear Lafayette Park, an area whose use as a forum for demonstrations and speech has long been protected.
The New York Times backed up the report with the Times' Katie Roberts writing, "That church, St. John’s — the so-called Church of the Presidents because every one since James Madison has attended — had been briefly set ablaze as the protests devolved on Sunday evening. After Mr. Trump’s aides spent much of Monday expressing outrage over the burning of a place of worship, Hope Hicks, a presidential adviser, eventually hatched a plan with others at the White House to have the president walk over to the building, according to an official familiar with the events."
As Roberts noted, the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, Mariann E. Budde, immediately went public with her displeasure with the publicity stunt, stating, “He [Trump] did not pray. He did not mention George Floyd, he did not mention the agony of people who have been subjected to this kind of horrific expression of racism and white supremacy for hundreds of years. We need a president who can unify and heal. He has done the opposite of that, and we are left to pick up the pieces.”
As part of their live coverage, CNN ran a chyron (which can be seen below) which read:" PEACEFUL PROTESTERS NEAR WHITE HOUSE TEAR-GASSED, SHOT WITH RUBBER BULLETS SO TRUMP CAN HAVE PHOTO-OPS."
That @cnn chyron is dead accurate. Dictators around the world right now are like, "Holy shit! This guy's nailed i… https://t.co/N71IV2CGYG— Mitch Coctostan (@Mitch Coctostan)1591056737.0