Biden spoke at Long Beach during Newsom’s final campaign event before the recall election on Tuesday, when the Democratic governor hopes to remain in office and see off a challenge from his main Republican rival, Larry Elder.
The president compared Elder, a conservative radio host, to Trump and argued that California should not elect a candidate who he said: “Will block progress on COVID-19.”
“All of you know that last year I got to run against the real Donald Trump,” Biden said.
The president then made the sign of the cross, a common gesture among Roman Catholics that is sometimes used as a way to ward off evil.
Biden appeared to make the sign of the cross as a joke after mentioning the former president’s name and some in the crowd laughed as he lowered his head, closed his eyes and crossed himself.
The president smiled briefly and then continued with his speech, criticizing Elder and urging California voters to vote against the recall in order to keep Newsom in office.
Biden is a Catholic and frequently attends mass in his local parish at St. Joseph’s on the Brandywine in the Diocese of Wilmington, Delaware, where he has worshiped regularly for decades.
It’s not uncommon for Catholics to cross themselves in a variety of situations, including as a joke to suggest something is evil or frightening. However, it is also seen as a deeply serious action by the Catholic Church.
During a homily delivered for World Youth Day in 2006, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said: “Every time we make the Sign of the Cross we should remember not to confront injustice with other injustice or violence with other violence: let us remember that we can only overcome evil with good and never by paying evil back with evil.”
Biden said on Monday: “This year, the leading Republican running for governor is the closest thing to a Trump clone that I’ve ever seen in your state. I really mean it. And he’s leading the other team. He’s the clone of Donald Trump. Can you imagine him being governor of this state? You can’t let that happen.
“California, keep Gavin and send a message this time,” he went on. “I’m going to make this as simple as I can: you either keep Gavin Newsom as your governor or you’ll get Donald Trump. It’s not a joke—a Republican governor who will block progress on COVID-19, who is also anti-woman, anti-worker, a climate denier who doesn’t believe in choice.”
Polling indicates that Newsom is on track to defeat the recall effort, but that Elder will win the most votes among the 46 replacement candidates.