Fact Check: Photos Do NOT Show 'Masonic Grips' By Bush, Obama, Who Are NOT Freemasons

Fact Check

  • by: Courtney Kealy
Fact Check: Photos Do NOT Show 'Masonic Grips' By Bush, Obama, Who Are NOT Freemasons Not Masonic

Do these photos document masonic handshakes -- called "grips" -- being made by Freemasons? No, that's not true: Scholars and the grand secretary of the Grand Lodge of New York say these are not masonic grips and neither former President George W. Bush nor former President Barack Obama are Freemasons. The post implies the people in the photographs are Masons and the names mentioned with hashtags are as well, but doesn't say it directly.

The claim appeared in a Facebook post (archived here) on February 8, 2022, under the title "The Freemason Handshake." It opens:

There are many different handshakes based the degree a person is. it is forbidden to use the handshake outside of their masonic circles. Masons can't use this hand shake on regular people only with other masons. So when you see 2 people doing this handshake they are masons or locked in with each other.

This is what the post looked like on Facebook at the time of writing:

Screen Shot 2022-02-10 at 3.24.41 PM.png

Facebook screenshot

(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Thu Feb 10 20:24:41 2022 UTC)

Special handshakes are part of masonic culture, according to history.com: "Freemasons greet one another with a variety of handshakes, all based on one's rank within the organization." Freemasonry is a men-only worldwide society that offers fellowship and mutual aid and includes oaths to uphold a moral discipline, using metaphors from geometry and architecture. Some of its practices are meant to be kept secret among members.

The post included a hashtag list and more than 20 photos, many of them showing celebrities, well-known athletes and political leaders such as Obama and Bush, but experts and Masons say the photos do not show masonic grips.

Rich Schulz, the grand secretary of the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of the State of New York, wrote in an email to Lead Stories on February 10, 2022:

These all just look like regular handshakes. There is nothing Masonic about any of them. Some of the handshakes are strong; some not; some half-hearted. None of them are Masonic grips.

He added that "clearly Presidents Bush and Obama are NOT Freemasons ... I suspect almost all of those shown in the photos are not as well."

The Grand Lodge in Virginia lists the U.S. presidents that have been Freemasons from George Washington to Gerald Ford.

"There is no central Masonic authority, and Freemasons are governed locally by the order's many customs and rites," according to History.com.

History.com lists office-holders as evidence of Freemasonry's influence in U.S. politics: "at least 15 presidents, five Supreme Court chief justices, and numerous members of Congress have been Masons. Presidents known to be Masons include Washington, James Monroe, Andrew Jackson, James Polk, James Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, James Garfield, William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, Warren Harding, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Lyndon Johnson, and Gerald Ford. There are an estimated two million Masons in the United States."

This is a closeup of Obama in a handshake from the post.

Screen Shot 2022-02-09 at 12.15.36 PM.png

(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Wed Feb 9 17:15:36 2022 UTC)

Lead Stories has reached out to designated representatives of Obama and Bush and will update when they respond.

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  Courtney Kealy

Courtney Kealy is a writer and fact-checker at Lead Stories. A graduate of Columbia University’s School of Journalism, she specializes in national and foreign affairs with more than two decades experience in the Middle East. Her work has appeared on FOX News, AlJazeera America, ABC News, the New York Times, Marie Claire, Time and Newsweek.

Read more about or contact Courtney Kealy

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