Fact Check: Claims that VP Kamala Harris Refused to Salute the Military are Missing Context

Author: McKenzie Sadeghi

The claim: Kamala Harris refused to salute members of the military while boarding Air Force Two

Shortly after a video emerged of Vice President Kamala Harris not saluting troops while boarding Air Force Two on March 19 in Georgia, some users took to social media to claim that she had disrespected the military and violated protocol. 

The viral video being shared on social media shows the vice president at Dobbins Air Reserve Base near Atlanta heading up the stairs on Air Force Two. Harris is seen walking by two military escorts who are standing at the bottom of the stairs saluting, without her returning the gesture. 

One user shared the video to Facebook on March 23 with the claim, "DISGRACEFUL: Vice President Kamala Harris refuses to salute the honor guard at the steps of the aircraft. It is a clear demonstration of her dislike for those in uniform, both law-enforcement and military." 

The same video and text was first shared on Twitter by former New York City police commissioner Bernard Kerik on March 22 in a tweet with over 9,500 likes and 4,900 retweets.

Kerik told USA TODAY via email that he stands by his statement and that "a military salute is a privileged gesture of respect, which is exactly why they were saluting her in the first place, even though she is not in their military chain of command."

"By ‘returning’ their salute, she not only acknowledges their presence, but their self-sacrifice, and the sacrifice of every service member that wears that uniform. This isn’t about a policy, protocol and/or a law ... this is about common courtesy, respect, honor and leadership," he said. 

In a similar version of the claim, one Facebook user posted a March 24 article from the DailyWire headlined, "Kamala Harris Breaks Precedent, Skips Saluting Military Before Boarding Air Force Two." 

"Too much of a big shot to follow protocol," the Facebook user wrote in a post along with the DailyWire article, which notes that Harris as vice president is not required to salute. 

USA TODAY reached out to the Facebook users for comment.

Harris is not required to return salute

The video being shared by social media users is authentic and was originally posted to Twitter on March 19 by Peter Velz, Harris' director of press operations. 

Harris was traveling back to Washington following her visit to Atlanta with President Joe Biden where they met with Georgia state legislators, Asian American leaders and Pacific Islander advocates following the deadly Atlanta spa shootings, USA TODAY reported

While the video shows Harris not saluting military officers when boarding the plane, there is no protocol in place that requires the vice president to return salutes, as she is not in the military chain of command. 

"There is no overarching instruction or regulation that requires the President or Vice President to return hand salutes from members of the Armed Forces," Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said in a statement to USA TODAY. "Vice President Harris has made very clear her respect and admiration for the men and women of the military, as well as their families.

"Our troops demonstrate their respect for the nation’s senior leaders in many ways; rending a hand salute is one of them," Kirby added. 

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