White House Insists Biden’s ‘Soul of the Nation’ Speech Was Not Divisive

White House Insists Biden’s ‘Soul of the Nation’ Speech Was Not Divisive
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre answers questions during the daily briefing at the White House in Washington on Aug. 5, 2022. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Naveen Athrappully

The White House is defending President Joe Biden’s divisive “Soul of the Nation” speech that cast Trump-aligned Republicans as a threat to America.

“Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans represent an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our republic,” Biden said in a Sept. 1 speech delivered at Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia, referring to the acronym for former President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again.”

Biden stood in front of deep red backlighting flanked by two Marines during the speech. The optics drew criticism even from mainstream commentators who said it was historically unusual for a president to denigrate his political opponents while using U.S. military members as props.

During a White House daily briefing on Sept. 7, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre defended the speech and said that it was not divisive.

“The way that we saw the speech is that he was talking to a majority of the country who agree that we have to protect our democracy, who agree that we have to protect our freedom, who agree that we have to protect our rights,” she said.

The press secretary went on to say that it’s “problematic” when people call Jan. 6 protestors “patriots.” Such statements are “coming from leaders,” she added.

Jean-Pierre’s characterization of Republicans who question the outcome of the 2020 election as a “threat to democracy” is in stark contrast to her own denial of past election results.

Just a month after Trump beat Hillary Clinton in 2016, Jean-Pierre wrote in a tweet, “Stolen emails, stolen drone, stolen election.….welcome to the world of #unpresidented Trump.”
Later in April 2020, Jean-Pierre wrote on social media that “Brian Kemp stole the gubernatorial election from Georgians and Stacey Abrams,” referring to the 2018 Georgia governor’s race and once more dismissing the outcome of an election.

Blaming Republicans, Criticism

In his speech, Biden sought to divide Republicans into “tolerant” and “intolerant” groups, placing Trump supporters in the latter category.

“Not every Republican embraces their extreme ideology,” Biden said while adding that “there is no question that the Republican Party today is dominated, driven, and intimidated by Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans, and that is a threat to this country.”

The president also accused Trump-aligned Republicans of not respecting the rule of law, not respecting the Constitution or the will of the people, and refusing to accept the results of a “free election.”

Republicans and conservatives have condemned Biden’s statements.

“There’s nothing wrong with America’s soul. The American people are hurting because of your policies. Rampant inflation. Out of control crime. Terrorism on the rise. Broken borders. Stop lecturing & change your policies before it’s too late,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said in a Sept. 2 tweet.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) called Biden “a danger to us all” and called for his impeachment, and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) criticized Biden’s “hateful attacks on half the country,” stating that “this is what a failed president looks like.”
Mimi Nguyen Ly contributed to this report.