White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre admitted during a press briefing on Friday that two Marines in uniform were purposely positioned in the background of President Joe Biden’s speech attacking “MAGA Republicans” as a threat to the country the evening before.
Jean-Pierre said during the briefing (emphasis added):
The president gave an important speech last night, a critical speech at an inflection point, and you know, our democracy, our values, are, are values that … our men and women who protect us every day and fight for it every day believe in as well.
The presence of the Marines at the speech was intended to demonstrate the deep and abiding respect the president has for these service members, to these ideals and the unique role our independent military plays in defending our democracy no matter which party is in power.
Biden immediately came under backlash from both sides of the political spectrum for having members of the military as part of the backdrop of such a highly partisan speech.
The military as an institution is nonpartisan and service members have to abide by certain rules to maintain that reputation, such as not appearing at campaign events in uniform, not publicly endorsing candidates, and not publicly commenting on partisan politics while identifying themselves as members of the military. The Marine sentries present likely had no say in the matter.
Breitbart News queried the Marine Corps as to whether it was appropriate for the Marines to be there, but the service referred questions to the White House Military Office.
White House aides have maintained that the speech was not political. Jean-Pierre argued that “standing up for democracy is not political.”
However, even journalists from CNN criticized the White House for allowing Marines to be used in such a manner.
CNN’s Brianna Keilar, a military spouse, tweeted: “Whatever you think of this speech the military is supposed to be apolitical. Positioning Marines in uniform behind President Biden for a political speech flies in the face of that. It’s wrong when Democrats do it. It’s wrong with Republicans do it.”