“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,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said during a briefing in Washington.
Biden spoke at a national park in Philadelphia, standing on an elevated platform.
Behind him stood two Marines in full uniform, as well as two American flags.
Critics said the staging was inappropriate.
“The only thing worse than Biden’s speech trashing his fellow citizens is wrapping himself in our flag and Marines to do it,” Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said on Twitter.
John Byrnes, a Marine Corps veteran and deputy director of Concerned Veterans for America, told Fox News that Biden’s use of the Marines “erodes trust” in the U.S. military.
Even legacy media reporters, who rarely criticize Biden, said the backdrop was unusual.
Jean-Pierre claimed it was “actually normal for presidents from either side of the aisle to give speeches in front of members of the military.”
During the speech, Biden said that Republicans who follow Trump’s Make America Great Again (MAGA) philosophy are extremists who threaten “the very foundations of our republic.”
“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,” Biden, who beat Trump in 2020 and may face a rematch with him in 2024, said.
Jean-Pierre said that Biden “gave an important speech last night, a critical speech at an inflection point, and our democracy, our values, our values that our men and women who protect us every day and fight for every day believe in as well.”
Biden walked back his comments on Friday morning, telling reporters that “I don’t consider any Trump supporters a threat to the country.”
“I do think anyone who calls for the use of violence, refuses to acknowledge an election … changing the way you count votes, that is a threat to democracy,” he added.