US President Donald Trump has been mocked for choosing to comfort Vice President Mike Pence over his wife Melania at the Washington memorial service for late evangelist Reverend Billy Graham.
A photograph of Mr Trump leaning over Mrs Trump to touch Mr Pence’s knee has spread online thanks to its “awkward” and “bizarre” nature.
Iconic pastor Reverend Graham passed away at the age of 99 on February 21 at his home in North Carolina.
On Wednesday (US time), his casket was laid to rest in the US Capitol Rotunda in a private ceremony attended by some of the nation’s top leaders.
Photos have since emerged from the half-hour ceremony, attended by Reverend Graham’s family, suggesting it was clearly an emotional event – particularly for Mr Trump.
But rather than seeking solace in the arms of his wife of 13 years, Mr Trump placed a hand on the knee of his VP, leaning over the First Lady to do so.
“Was this a gesture of reassurance? A warning?” New York magazine queried on Twitter.
“What does Mother have to say about this? Is Pence allowed to have dinner with Trump alone?” Twitter user Alex Palombo joked, referring to the well-publicised revelation Mr Pence won’t eat dinner alone with a woman other than his wife, Karen, who he often calls ‘Mother’.
Melania: Don’t touch me.
Trump: Not going to touch you, I’m reaching for Mike.
Pence: Bad touch. BAD TOUCH.
— Nolamama69 (@Nolamama69) February 28, 2018
— Saira Khan (@sairakh) February 28, 2018
Much has been made of Mr Trump’s physical interactions with his wife, particularly following claims from adult star Stormy Daniels that Mr Trump’s lawyer paid her to remain silent about an affair she had with the President while Mrs Trump was pregnant.
While Mrs Trump has been filmed or photographed multiple times rebuffing Mr Trump’s attempts to hold her hand, at Reverend Graham’s memorial the couple made a rare show of warmth, holding hands as they entered the Rotunda.
Mrs Trump, wearing leather gloves, kept a grip on her husband’s hand as Mr Graham’s coffin entered the building.
In February, Mr and Mrs Trump were also captured engaging in a fleeting moment of intimacy during an event at Mar-a-Lago on February 19, sitting together on a couch with arms interlinked.
A post shared by Mark Simone (@marksimonenyc) on
In an uncharacteristically sombre tweet on Wednesday, Mr Trump paid tribute to Reverend Graham by praying that, “all across this land, the Lord will raise up men and women like Billy Graham to spread a message of love and hope to every precious child of God”.