White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre defended having uniformed Marine sentries flank President Joe Biden as he gave a speech Thursday night calling his political rival Donald Trump and “MAGA forces” a “threat to this country.”
During a Friday White House press conference, Jean-Pierre was asked about the decision to use an official taxpayer-funded White House event to give a politically charged speech and why he had uniformed Marines present during the event.
“The way we see it here, and I would argue the way many Americans across the country see it, is standing up for Democracy is not political,” Jean-Pierre said. “Denouncing political violence is not political.”
Throughout the speech, Biden repeatedly denounced political violence while making several references to Trump and his “MAGA Forces” and “MAGA Republicans.”
At one point in the speech Biden said:
MAGA forces are determined to take this country backwards — backwards to an America where there is no right to choose, no right to privacy, no right to contraception, no right to marry who you love.
They promote authoritarian leaders, and they fan the flames of political violence that are a threat to our personal rights, to the pursuit of justice, to the rule of law, to the very soul of this country.
They look at the mob that stormed the United States Capitol on January 6th — brutally attacking law enforcement — not as insurrectionists who placed a dagger to the throat of our democracy, but they look at them as patriots.
And they see their MAGA failure to stop a peaceful transfer of power after the 2020 election as preparation for the 2022 and 2024 elections.
While Biden specifically denounced political violence he attributed to these MAGA Republicans, he did not mention other instances of political violence like an armed suspect being arrested after threatening to kill conservative Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh earlier this summer or an avowed Bernie Sanders-supporter shooting at a congressional Republican baseball practice in 2017 and wounding Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA).
Despite the politically one-sided nature of the examples of political violence Biden described, Jean-Pierre said “we don’t call any of that political, we see that as leadership and we see that as presidential.”
Addressing the issue of Marines in uniform at the campaign-style speech, Jean-Pierre said “look, the president gave an important speech last night, a critical speech in an added inflection point.” The speech comes two months before the 2022 midterm elections.
“Our democracy our values are values that our men and women who protect us every day and fight for every day and believe in as well,” she continued.
Jean-Pierre then said the presence of the Marines at Biden’s speech was intended.
“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 ideas and the unique ideals and the unique role our independent military plays in defending our democracy, no matter which party is in power,” she said.
While Jean-Pierre said the presence of the Marines was intended to show Biden’s respect for the service of military members, he did not specifically reference military service at any point during his speech.
The presence of uniformed service members at politically charged events runs the risk of implying the military’s endorsement for those political messages. The military routinely issues guidance, especially around election season, advising military members about what political activity in which they can engage.
Department of Defense Directive 1344.10 states that “a member of the Armed Forces on active duty shall not participate in partisan political fundraising activities (except as permitted in subparagraph 22.214.171.124.), rallies, conventions (including making speeches in the course thereof), management of campaigns, or debates.”
The Department of Defense has not answered American Military News request for comment about whether they consider Biden’s speech a political event or whether they endorse the contents of his speech.
A Marine Corps spokesperson directed similar questions about Biden’s speech to the White House.
The White House has not responded to additional American Military News requests for comment at this time.