Historians, political scientists, and journalism and extremism experts are praising the President for standing up for American values in the face of rising far-right threats of political violence. President Biden in very clear terms warned Americans they must “defend” and “protect” democracy against the fascism of the far-right – which is not a political speech, but a speech about, as Biden said, the “soul of the nation.”
As expected, many Republicans expressed outrage over President Biden calling out the portion of the GOP that identifies as “MAGA,” even though he made clear his criticism was not of mainstream Republicans.
One news network’s coverage in particular is being highly criticized as several of its reporters took umbrage with President Biden delivering what they wrongly characterized as a “political” speech, while criticizing that two uniformed Marines were standing behind him.
CNN Chief National Affairs Correspondent Jeff Zeleny tweeted a photo of the President in front of the Marines, saying: “There’s nothing unusual or wrong with a President delivering a political speech — it’s inherent in the job description — but doing it against a backdrop of two Marines standing at attention and the Marine Band is a break with White House traditions.”
There’s nothing unusual or wrong with a President delivering a political speech — it’s inherent in the job description — but doing it against a backdrop of two Marines standing at attention and the Marine Band is a break with White House traditions. pic.twitter.com/s3TSYHtkcA
— Jeff Zeleny (@jeffzeleny) September 2, 2022
Journalist Jamison Foser observed that “Biden is talking about defending democracy and the rule of law from assault by a fascist movement that staged a deadly insurrection. Marines take an oath to ‘support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.’ Pretty compatible!”
Former U.S. Senator Claire McCaskil (D-MO) slammed Zeleny.
“Are you kidding me Jeff? The last President did official Republican political events at the White House! And used the National Park Service as political event planners. How about political interview inside the Lincoln Memorial? Those are all examples of demolishing WH traditions,” she wrote.
U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) asked, “Didn’t TFG,” referring to Donald Trump, “accept his nomination on the White House lawn?”
“I recall a certain president giving a political speech on a damn aircraft carrier,” blasted national security attorney Brad Moss. “I recall another president accepting his political nomination at the WHITE HOUSE. Ask me how little I care about the two marines deep in the background.”
The former Communications Director for Senator Amy Klobuchar, Tim Hogan, corrected the record with photographic evidence:
Won’t somebody think of the norms?! pic.twitter.com/sSmt65X4I1
— Tim Hogan (@timjhogan) September 2, 2022
Zeleny was not the only CNN journalist to instigate the ire of Americans watching the President’s speech.
“Whatever you think of this speech the military is supposed to be apolitical. 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,” tweeted CNN host Brianna Keilar.
University of South Carolina Political Science Professor David Darmofal corrected Keilar, saying: “It was a speech about defending democracy.”
Mary Trump, the former President’s niece who is a psychologist, added: “I see everyone at CNN got their talking point. This was NOT a political speech (unless you think condemning fascism and encouraging people to vote are political positions in which case–that’s what we call a tell).
CNN wasn’t the only news outlet with reporters attracting anger.
CBS News’ Ed O’Keefe was also criticized for equating a call to fight fascism and defend democracy as a “political” speech.
O’Keefe characterized the fight for civil rights as partisan politics, which it is not.
Remind yourself that White House officials insisted repeatedly today this isn’t a political speech. Then read these excerpts. https://t.co/ce0lFwJUhN
— Ed O’Keefe (@edokeefe) September 1, 2022
Marquette University Political Science Professor Julia Azari, who teaches about the American presidency, American political parties, and the politics of the American state blasted O’Keefe: “This frame undermines both democracy and journalism.”
White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain graciously challenged O’Keefe:
Yes, please do read the excerpts.
They defend Freedom. Equality. Democracy.
They are as “political” as Ben Franklin, saying in 1787, that the Framers had given us “a Republic, if you can keep it.” https://t.co/NO445eizZC
— Ronald Klain (@WHCOS) September 1, 2022
Dan Froomkin, one of the most credible media critics also slammed O’Keefe.
“Biden is describing a major democratic crisis that actually exists. But political journalists only see a Democrat saying negative things about Republicans and so, you know, both sides,” he wrote.
The White House Deputy Press Secretary, Andrew Bates, summed up what many were saying: “Democracy is not a partisan or political issue.”