The National Guard disputed a claim that troops intentionally turned their backs on President Joe Biden’s motorcade as it passed through D.C.
“These National Guardsmen were on duty with a mission to protect the president against potential threats,” Capt. Tinashe Machona, a spokeswoman for the D.C. National Guard, told the Stars and Stripes newspaper. “Some are facing out to ensure the safety of all.”
A video that showed Guard members with their backs turned garnered more than 2 million views.
“Claim is @joeBiden banished troops in DC to parking garage when they weren’t on guard b/c he felt the troops had disrespected him by turning their backs on him,” tweeted Crime Prevention Research Center President John Lott Jr. after the clip went viral. “Others say they were facing out away from the entire motorcade b/c any threat to it would come from outside the road.”
More than 20,000 National Guard members were sent to Washington earlier this month following a breach at the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 6.
However, since then, controversy has ensued. Several unnamed National Guard soldiers told news outlets that they were forced to leave the Capitol and rest in a nearby parking garage, prompting apologies and condemnations from various lawmakers.
Several governors pulled their respective state National Guard forces in the aftermath.
“They’re soldiers, they’re not Nancy Pelosi’s servants,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis told Fox News on Friday. “This is a half-cocked mission at this point, and I think the appropriate thing is to bring them home.”
Some officials blamed the public relations fracas on miscommunication. The National Guard said that U.S. Capitol Police ordered troops to move their break area to the garage, prompting a counter-statement from the Capitol Police’s acting chief on Friday.
“I want to assure everyone that, with the exception of specific times on Inauguration Day itself while the swearing-in ceremonies were underway, the United States Capitol police did not instruct the National Guard to vacate the Capitol Building facilities,” Acting Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman said on the department’s website. “And on Inauguration Day, the Guard was notified and encouraged to reoccupy the spaces in the Capitol and CVC at 2 p.m.”
Pittman added, “It was brought to our attention early today that facility management with the Thurgood Marshall Judicial Office Building reached out directly to the National Guard to offer use of its facilities.”
The move drew apologies from Biden and First Lady Jill Biden, who was seen visiting with some of the National Guard members last week.