Fox News senior strategic analyst Gen. Jack Keane told “Fox & Friends” on Friday that Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley “absolutely made the right decision” to express regret for accompanying President Trump at a photo op last week at Lafayette Square amid protests sparked by the death of George Floyd.
Keane made the comment one day after Milley called the decision “a mistake.”
“As senior leaders, everything you do will be closely watched and I am not immune,” Milley said during a remote video speech to graduates at National Defense University.
“As many of you saw, the result of the photograph of me at Lafayette Square last week. That sparked a national debate about the role of the military in civil society,” Milley continued. “I should not have been there. My presence in that moment and in that environment created a perception of the military involved in domestic politics.”
He added: “As a commissioned uniformed officer, it was a mistake that I have learned from, and I sincerely hope we all can learn from it.”
On Friday Keane explained what “all the fuss” was about.
“Any member of the United States military, a soldier, a sergeant, an officer or a general is prohibited from participating in political events or political venues in uniform,” Keane explained.
“It doesn’t mean they cannot support a candidate privately outside of uniform, of course they can, but the military does not want people lending their uniform to support a candidate and using that as leverage.”
He went on to say that “Gen. Milley found himself in a very unusual circumstance.”
The event in question happened earlier this month, when Trump visited St. John's Episcopal Church, near the White House, a day after part of the church had been set on fire. The visit included a photo op in which Trump held up a Bible.
Prior to that photo op, the area around the church was forcibly cleared of protesters, though there are conflicting claims over the tactics used. Critics say tear gas was used, while the Park Police specify that they used "pepper balls" — not denying it's a form a tear gas.
Keane noted that Milley was “called away from a meeting he was about to attend in a joint task force headquarters," a meeting "that was overseeing the riots where many of our soldiers were, and they were all in battle dress uniforms there.”
He said Milley was called to the White House for a meeting, which turned out to be a gathering.
“That group began to move through Lafayette Park,” Keane said, adding that Milley “thought he was going to see soldiers and policemen.”
He noted that when the group exited the park, Milley realized a “political situation” seemed to be developing “with the president having a picture taken in front of St. John’s Church, which had been burned down the night before.”
“That’s certainly within the president’s rights to choose how he’s going to deal with an event like that, but Milley saw that developing as a potential political event and he slipped away and did not participate in those pictures,” Keane said.
He then pointed out that “a firestorm was created as a result of it,” which he said was “largely hyped by the media to some degree.”
Keane said the firestorm was over a potential “violation of civil-military relationships” and the idea that “Milley had crossed over in terms of supporting that political event.”
“Milley looked at that [and] I think he came to the right conclusion,” Keane said. “Perception was created and therefore he apologized.”
In an extensive interview with Fox News on Friday, President Trump said he's "fine" with Milley’s move to express regret for accompanying the president during the photo op. The president also defended his own actions that day.
Fox News’ Brooke Singman and Lucas Tomlinson contributed to this report.