Commentary: Fact Check: Photo of Evangelicals Praying Over Golden Trump Statue Is Fake

When the restive Israelites thought Moses was tarrying a bit too long with God atop Mount Sinai, they built themselves a golden calf to worship. Moses eventually came down to lay down the law — quite literally, since he was carrying the tablets of the Ten Commandments — and found his people worshipping their made-up god. While Moses tried to intercede with the Lord to spare the fickle masses, they were eventually afflicted with the plague (among other punishments).

Such were Old Testament times.

Since then, the “golden calf” has become a go-to metaphor for idolatry. So you can imagine the left-bubble Twitter glee when an image of evangelical leaders praying around a gold Trump statue at the Conservative Political Action Conference this weekend began making the rounds.

Now, granted, it was a photoshopped image, but why let the facts get in the way of a good narrative?

Joel Stein didn’t, at least at first. According to Fox News, the journalist and author could well have been patient zero in sharing the doctored image under the pretense it was real on Sunday. He’d later delete the tweet and acknowledge it was a fake (although he still had some choice words, which we’ll get to later).

Here’s Adam Christensen, unsuccessful Democratic Party nominee for Florida’s 3rd Congressional District in 2020. Looks like you dodged a bullet, FL-3:

According to Newsweek, the picture was a mashup of an actual Trump statue that was present at CPAC and a separate image of then-President Donald Trump surrounded by evanglical leaders praying at a January 2020 event in Miami.

Trump has been removed from the doctored photo and replaced by the statue, so it appears the evangelicals are praying over the graven image. The “leaders included Paula White, a televangelist; Michael Tait, lead singer of the Christian rock group Newsboys; Dr. Alveda King, niece of Martin Luther King Jr.; and others,” Newsweek reported.

Here’s Mo Bella, a minor social media celebrity from the tweet-before-you-think school of digital interaction:

Here’s my caption: “Google stuff first.”

And there were others:

So, as noted, the statue was real — created by artist Tommy Zagan out of fiberglass, according to Fox.

It depicted Trump in shorts and flip-flops, carrying a copy of the Constitution.

I can’t say for certain why he was painted in gold, although anyone who’s ever seen the interior of any Trump property might begin to realize why someone might associate the color with the 45th president.

It definitely attracted attention at CPAC.

It’s worth noting that Twitter users were already calling this an “idol” before the photoshopping happened, according to Fox. I’m not usually given to opining on idolatry, but A) CPAC is a freewheeling event and I doubt a single person there took this statue seriously and B) if you’re going to make an idol to worship, American flag-shorts and flip-flops don’t tend to inspire awe and veneration.

The original photoshopped pic was posted by University of Washington professor Carl T. Bergstrom, another popular figure on left-bubble Twitter — who seemed slightly baffled people took the mash-up at face value:

“I thought the reference was clear, but it’s causing confusion. I’ve deleted,” Bergstrom wrote. “AFAIK, no one prayed over a golden Trump statue. In public, anyway.”

Bergstrom may have taken it down, but others who spread the fake news found rationalizations to either keep the image up or excuse their lack of due diligence in posting it in the first place.

We return to Joel Stein, who announced the deletion with a mea sorta culpa with a baffling message about the “insanity of American politics.”

Are we to infer this “insanity” forced a journalist to post a self-evidently absurd picture of evangelicals praying over a gold statue of Donald Trump in American flag shorts? Furthermore, if the existence of the statue itself is evidence of “the insanity of American politics,” I’d argue Stein needs to acquaint himself with CPAC.

This isn’t a memorial service in St. Paul’s Cathedral marking the 56th anniversary of Winston Churchill’s passing. It’s a convention that appeals to young-ish conservative political junkies who get more than their fill of liberal professors like Bergstrom and media scolds like Stein 363 days a year. For two days, they listen to prominent speakers, meet like-minded individuals and have fun. A gold-painted statue of former President Trump in flip-flops qualifies, I think, as fun.

Stein, at least, wasn’t going to get as stuck in as Adam Christensen. Here’s what Christensen tweeted 13 minutes after his original missive about “Praying to a Golden Idol”:

When someone pointed out sharing disinformation deliberately made him difficult to trust, Christensen continued to defend himself, saying it reminded him of “Conservative media circles as well as those that I grew up with.”

And there’s the rub. Sure, it was basically a lie, but it felt like a “visual representation” of Christensen’s own truth. Which makes it a lie he likes.

For all of those liberals who got caught up in the excitement of mocking both Trump and evangelical Christians and retweeted the doctored image before deleting it, again, try Google next time.

However, for those of you sticking to your guns about this “golden idol” thing, I’d like to point out it that comes from Exodus 32. Twelve chapters earlier, in Exodus 20, God laid out the actual language of the Ten Commandments. One of them, if I recall correctly, involved not bearing false witness against one’s neighbor.

Now, it depends on whether you consider conservatives to be your “neighbors” or whether you can convince yourself that you really weren’t “bearing false witness” by sharing a fake photo.

However, if you’re getting yourself in a snit about the golden calf part of Exodus, a desultory look at the Commandments in question might at least be in order.

This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

Responses

  1. More fake news by the Democrat State News Media. Kim Jong Un would be proud.

  2. Yes, it’s fake news admits the left. But fake news is bad only when our opponents use it.

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