Updated at 12:30 p.m. Eastern
U.S. Strategic Command is charged with controlling the nation’s nuclear operations, but conceded it missed the mark with a New Year’s Eve tweet comparing the famed ball drop to a B-2 bomber dropping weapons.
“TimesSquare tradition rings in the #NewYear by dropping the big ball…if ever needed, we are #ready to drop something much, much bigger,” read the now-deleted tweet from Stratcom’s official account.
A slick video accompanied by pulsing music showed a bomber soaring through the air and releasing two conventional — not nuclear — weapons. “Stealth,” “Ready” and “Lethal” flash across the screen in all capital letters. The video concludes with an explosion flashing into a huge fireball.
The backlash was swift, and by early Monday evening the unified command of four military branches had removed the tweet, issuing a mea culpa.
“Our previous NYE tweet was in poor taste & does not reflect our values,” it read. “We apologize. We are dedicated to the security of America & allies.”
A spokesperson told NPR in an email that the video was actually reposted from earlier this year and “was part of our Year in Review series meant to feature our command priorities: strategic deterrence, decisive response and combat-ready force.”
The video showed a pair of conventional Massive Ordnance Penetrators being dropped at a test range in the United States, the spokesperson said.
“We admittedly erred in connecting it to New Year’s Eve festivities.”
Former Office of Government Ethics Director Walter Shaub Jr., a sharp critic of the Trump administration who resigned in July of 2017, posted a screengrab of the original tweet, asking “What kind of maniacs are running this country?”
The reconsidered reminder of U.S. military might came as tensions with North Korea bubbled up once again.
In a New Year’s Day address, leader Kim Jong Un alluded to nuclear confrontation, saying he was willing to meet with President Trump but Pyongyang would be forced to take a different path if the U.S., “continues to break its promises and misjudges the patience of our people by unilaterally demanding certain things and push(ing) ahead with sanctions and pressure,” according to a translation by The Associated Press.