June 5, 2014 at 8:53 AM ET
The Secret Service insists President Obama’s safety was not compromised when he was recorded working out at a hotel gym while on the road in Poland.
"This is no different than if the president visited a restaurant off the record and other diners took pictures of him,” the Secret Service told NBC News in a statement about a video captured Wednesday by someone inside the same gym at a Warsaw hotel.
In it, Obama is pumping iron, wearing ear buds and a black tracksuit. He knocked out lunges and shoulder presses, and deliberated over dumbbells before hitting the elliptical machine.
The video prompted a firestorm of social media criticism from people worried the scenario demonstrated a breach in the president’s security. The Secret Service, however, said all hotel guests are screened before entering the hotel. They also said agents were with the president while he was working out. One Secret Service official added it was clear that pictures were being taken and that no guests were asked to stop.
“This is not a security issue,” former Secret Service agent Evy Poumpouras told TODAY Thursday. “Now it may seem odd to you that people are in the gym with him but that's actually quite common, so no, the president was not in any danger by being at the gym in Poland.”
Other presidents also have worked out in public. President Clinton jogged in public and President George W. Bush rode a mountain bike, while his father, President George H.W. Bush, frequently hit the golf links on a public course.
"When you're dealing with such high-level individuals, the president of the United States, these moments are bound to happen,” Poumpouras said. “It's difficult to control them. Is he in danger in any way? He is not."
NBC’s Peter Alexander said he’s worked out in the same gym as the president. Secret Service agents first swept the area with a canine team long before Obama arrived.
“We were allowed to continue with our workout, uninterrupted," he said. But "it was clear to me that some of the other guys working out right next to me, and frankly, right next to the president, were actually members of the presidential detail themselves.”
While some feared the video showed a president at risk, others on social media clearly weren't as distressed. They were more bothered by the commander-in-chief's workout regimen.