The White House on Friday brushed off criticism for positioning U.S. Marines on stage for President Biden’s speech in which he smeared his political opponents as anti-democratic extremists.
Several advocates for military veterans, including former a Democratic Party official, criticized Mr. Biden for delivering a politically-charged address with Marines “as props.”
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said it “is normal for presidents from either side of the aisle to give speeches in front of the military.”
“The presence of the Marines at the speech was intended to demonstrate the deep and abiding respect the president has for these service members,” she said.
Still, the backlash was growing. Complaints came from across the political spectrum that Mr. Biden had overstepped a sacrosanct boundary meant to keep the military out of politics.
Soon after Mr. Biden concluded his remarks, CNN anchor Brianna Keilar criticized the president for positioning Marines in the background.
“Whatever you think of this speech the military is supposed to be apolitical,” she wrote on Twitter. “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 when Republicans do it.”
Others piled on Friday.
Allison Jaslow, an Iraq War veteran and former executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, knocked the White House for “using the military as a political pawn.”
“We need to make sure that our military is as removed from politics as possible and it’s not right if a Democrat uses the military as a political pawn and it’s not right if the Republican Party does it as well,” she said on CNN. “None of our politicians or elected leaders should do that.”
Concerned Veterans for America deputy director and U.S. Marine Corps veteran John Byrnes accused Mr. Biden of using the Marines “as props.”
He told Fox News that American “men and women in uniform serve the country, not a party” and “take a solemn oath that should not be taken lightly or taken advantage of.”
Mr. Biden’s speech, delivered in Philadelphia and paid for as a White House event rather than a political event, marked a significant escalation of his verbal attacks on Mr. Trump, his political allies and those who voted for him.
Critics noted that Mr. Trump received 74 million votes in the 2020 election.
In separate speeches over the past week, Mr. Biden condemned the platform of Trump supporters as “semi-fascism” and decried their criticism of the FBI and Justice Department as “sickening.”
Referring to Mr. Trump’s Make America Great Again campaign slogan, Mr. Biden accused “MAGA Republicans” of refusing to recognize free and fair elections, talking about violence in response to political policies they don’t like and working to thwart “the will of the people.” Mr. Biden also tore into Trump loyalists for refusing to accept the outcome of the 2020 election, saying “democracy cannot survive” under their belief system.
“MAGA Republicans have made their choice. They embrace anger. They thrive on chaos. They live not in the light of truth but in the shadow of lies,” Mr. Biden said.
Ms. Jean-Pierre on Friday objected to characterizing the speech as politically driven.
“Standing up for democracy is not political,” she said. “Denouncing political violence is not political. Defending rights and freedom is not political. Making clear that the challenges facing the nation is not political.”
“We don’t call any of that political,” Ms. Jean-Pierre told reporters at the White House. “We see that as leadership and we see that as presidential.”