In Burns’s account, he was standing behind Trump, who was seated at the Resolute desk in the Oval Office, when he noticed a white spider the size of a half-dollar making its way up the president’s back.
“I just thought I was dreaming,” recounted Burns in a telephone interview. “Is that really a spider running up the back of the president of the United States?”
It was. Burns, for the record, hates spiders, but didn’t see any other choice but to step in. Before the spider got to the president’s neck, Burns whacked it — and Trump — with his bare hand.
“It made such a loud noise, and I think people were bewildered and were like, ‘What did you just do?’” said Burns, who then quickly tried to explain himself: “Security, please don’t shoot me! He had a spider on his back.”
Burns said the president was calm throughout the ordeal and only asked, “Well, did you kill the spider?”
The pastor kept the dead spider as proof of his good intentions. Burns said he sent a picture to experts, and they had identified it as a “yellow sac” spider, a species found in the District (and in much of the United States), which is common indoors in winter months.
Its bite does not appear to be fatal, but it is painful. According to a spider website maintained by Michigan State University, yellow sac spiders likely account for more bites of humans than any other kind of spider. The website says “the bite is usually very painful at the outset. … The burning sensation associated with the bite will last for up to an hour, with rash and blistering occurring during the next 1-10 hours.”
After the spider was squashed, Burns said he joked with Trump that he deserved a medal. He recalled that just before the incident, Burns, who regularly appears on cable news defending the president, had reminded Trump he was still in his corner. “I just said to the president, I said, you know, ‘I still got your back.’ He said, ‘I know you got my back.’”
The White House could not be reached for comment.