President Biden’s prime time speech on Thursday evening is being met with scorn by some pundits on cable news over its tone and the staging that accompanied it.
The speech, during which Biden framed the wing of the Republican Party loyal to former President Trump as a threat to democracy, served as a scathing rebuke of the ongoing political influence of his predecessor, which Democrats hope will energize voters ahead of this fall’s midterm elections.
Made against a dark red backdrop in Philadelphia with a pair of U.S. Marines standing behind the president as he spoke, the speech also portrayed Republicans who are loyal to Trump over the GOP establishment as aiming to take the country “backward.”
“Not every Republican, not even a majority of Republicans, are MAGA Republicans. Not every Republican embraces their extreme ideology,” Biden said during his remarks. “But there’s 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.”
Immediately after the speech and during the day Friday, cable news and Twitter were buzzing with critics hammering the president for what they said was the political tone of his remarks and the staging used in Philadelphia.
“This was an inappropriate speech,” said Ari Fleischer, a former aide to president George W. Bush and now a Fox News contributor. “This was a campaign speech, and the U.S. Marine Corps has some explaining to do. How did they get used? Why were two Marines used in the background of that shot.”
On CNN’s morning program, New Day, host Brianna Keilar spoke with veteran Allison Jaslow who argued Democrats politicized two Marines staged in the background of Biden’s televised address.
“Somebody made the decision to put those Marines in the shot,” Jaslow said. “And the reality is those Marines didn’t have a choice.”
On Friday, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre defended the administration’s decision to use the Marines in the shot.
“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. Again, no matter which party is in power,” Jean-Pierre said.
In terms of the substance of the speech, some on the political left felt Biden’s speech did not go far enough in calling out Republicans who have backed Trump’s false claims of election fraud and other statements and policies on race, immigration and other cultural issues.
“I don’t know who the ‘It’s not all Republicans, just MAGA Republicans’ [is] for,” said liberal pundit Elie Mystal during an appearance Thursday night on MSNBC. “I’m sure there are some White supremacists who will vote with White supremacists, who don’t think they are White supremacists who are happy Biden didn’t call them a White supremacist.”
Biden attempted to clarify his comments about Republicans more generally again on Friday.
“I don’t consider any Trump supporter to be a threat to the country,” Biden said. “I do think anyone who calls for the use of violence, fails to condemn violence when it’s used, refuses to acknowledge an election has been won, insists upon changing the way in which we rule and count votes, that is a threat to democracy.”