Looks like President Obama might have inadvertently waded into a hot-button D.C. political controversy.
The union representing District firefighters tweeted a picture this afternoon of Obama being handed a red T-shirt bearing “DCFD” insignia at a firefighter-focused event today at an Arlington firehouse.
This, you may know, is controversial because the D.C. department is officially the Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department, and Chief Kenneth Ellerbe last year instituted a ban on wearing clothing bearing the long-defunct “DCFD” moniker while on duty.
There’s a bunch of reasons for doing so — including longstanding criticism that the department is too culturally focused on firefighting when most of its service calls are medical in nature. But the union has steadfastly defended the rights of its members to wear the DCFD shirt, arguing the abbreviation’s history and simplicity trump other concerns.
Ed Smith, president of Local 36 of the International Association of Fire Fighters, said there were no political overtones intended in handing POTUS the shirt.
”Those were shirts we had made up last year, before the change,” he said. “Those are the shirts we wear when we’re out in the community, attending different events. ... We try to look uniform.”
Lon Walls, an FEMS spokesperson, said he wasn’t reading too much into the giveaway.
“People give stuff to the president all the time,” he said. “I’m sure he doesn’t know what all the issues are.”