Tuberville defends hold on defense nominations, says Pentagon wrong to screen out white nationalists

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U.S. Sen. Tommy Tuberville

Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., listens to question during a news conference March 30, 2022, in Washington.

Mariam Zuhaib, AP Photo

U.S. Senator Tommy Tuberville continues to defend his hold on Department of Defense nominations. On Friday, seven U.S. Defense Secretaries – representing both parties – signed a letter to Senate leaders saying Tuberville’s actions are harming military readiness and “risks turning military officers into political pawns.”

Tuberville placed the hold to protest a Defense Department policy that covers certain expenses for military personnel, who have to travel for abortion services from states like Alabama, where abortion access is strictly limited. Tuberville, Alabama’s senior U.S. Senator, began the action in early March, affecting up to 200 Pentagon nominees.

In an interview last Thursday with WBHM’s Richard Banks, Tuberville said he’s protesting the new Pentagon policy because he says it violates the Hyde Amendment, which blocks federal funds from being used to pay for abortion outside of exceptions for rape, incest, or if the pregnancy is determined to endanger the woman’s life. However, the original memo concerning abortion access, signed last October by Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, says the travel and transportation allowances for Service members are to be “appropriate and consistent with applicable federal law.”

In the interview, Tuberville also discussed his bill to ban transgender athletes from competing in women’s sports and his objections to what he says are attempts by the Pentagon to screen out white nationalists.

The following interview was edited for clarity. Following the transcript of this interview are clarifications for context.

Senator, your team told me that you want to first discuss in this interview your Title IX legislation, a measure that would bar transgender women from playing in women’s sports. Given all the initiatives you’re working on in the Senate, why put so much focus on this topic compared to other issues that affect Alabamians?

It’s going to affect everybody all over the country. And the problem they’re having, in the next couple of weeks is Joe Biden, he’s legislating from the White House and he basically doesn’t care about women’s sports and Title IX. He’s going to take a sledgehammer to it, because, in the next couple of weeks he’s going to executive order any school in 2023, starting this year. If you do not abide by his law in terms of males playing against women in sports, you’ll lose your federal funding [* Note 1]. Title IX is going to go under if we continue to get this type of legislation from Joe Biden.

You have single-handedly blocked critical Department of Defense nominations to protest new Pentagon policies ensuring that servicemembers have access to reproductive health care, including reimbursement for servicemembers who must travel to obtain abortions. Military leaders, as well as members of your own Republican Party, have expressed concern, even outright frustration, over your hold on these nominations. Let’s say your actions have no effect on military readiness, a claim that you made in a press release and in an op-ed. However, how do you think those actions look to our military adversaries?

Well, it goes back to one thing that I talked about, legislating from the White House and from the Department of Defense. We’ve had an abortion policy. This is not about abortion. We’ve had abortions for years in the military. We have a law in this country called the Hyde Amendment that says taxpayer money will not be used for abortions, because some people believe in it, some people don’t. Again, this is a change in the policy from the White House.

You’ve established your concern, where Biden’s policies are. But the question was, how do you think these actions look to our adversaries?

Well, you know, I’m on the Armed Services Committee and I go through all these hearings and listen to all these generals, four-star, all their combatant commanders. And if we think this is a problem, with showing our adversaries we’re weak, all we got to do is go back and look at Joe Biden’s, what he’s done to our military with the woke ideas, with the CRT that we’re teaching in our military [* Note 2]. We are losing in the military so fast. Our readiness in terms of recruitment. And why? I’ll tell you why, because the Democrats are attacking our military, saying we need to get out the white extremists, the white nationalists, people that don’t believe in our agenda, as Joe Biden’s agenda [* Note 3]. They’re destroying it. This year, we will not reach any recruiting goals in the military. So, if we want to talk about—looking weak—that’s where we’re going to look weak. We cannot start putting rules in there for one type, one group and make different factions in the military, because that is the most important institution in the United States of America, and our allies, is a strong, hard-nosed, killing machine, which is called our military.

You mentioned the Biden administration trying to prevent white nationalists from being in the military. Do you believe they should allow white nationalists in the military?

Well, they call them that. I call them Americans. What happened after January the sixth—and I was here on January the sixth—we were attacked on the Senate floor. Saying all these people that came into the Capitol were extremists, they were against the country. There was a lot of people. There were probably a hundred of them that came in, broke windows and broke doors that should have been locked up. That’s not how we do it in America. But there were hundreds of thousands that didn’t come in, outside, that were true Americans that believe in this country [* Note 4]. But right after that, we, our military and Secretary Austin, put out an order to stand down and all military across the country, saying we’re going to run out the white nationalists, people that don’t believe how we believe. And that’s not how we do it in this country. We have got so much division up here that, not for the country. You know, this is not for any individual, this country. This country is for all of us. And we’re all the same. It doesn’t make any difference if you’re rich, poor, black, white. It doesn’t make any difference. Everybody’s an American, has opportunity to make this country better. We’ve made it 247 years. But I’m going to tell you what, we’re walking a tightrope right now, at how much longer this country is going to make it, as we all know it.

Note 1

Tuberville’s claim concerning transgender women competing in women’s sports

Tuberville said that President Joe Biden will issue an executive order in the “next couple of weeks” that will stipulate, “If you do not abide by his law in terms of males playing against women in sports, you’ll lose your federal funding.”

Clarification

Last month, the Biden administration proposed a rule that would forbid outright bans on transgender athletes. However, schools, including those that receive federal funding, could still adopt policies that limit transgender students’ participation, particularly in more competitive high school and college sports.

Note 2

Tuberville’s claim that Critical Race Theory is being taught in the military

“All we got to do is go back and look at Joe Biden’s, what he’s done to our military with the woke ideas, with the CRT that we’re teaching in our military.”

Fact Check

The U.S. military is not requiring that CRT be taught and there is little evidence that it’s being discussed much at all in the ranks. According to Military Times, the one instance in which it is being used in an educational setting is at the U.S Military Academy at West Point.

Note 3

Tuberville’s claims concerning the Biden administration and Democrats reducing military recruitment

Tuberville said military recruitment is down “because the Democrats are attacking our military.” He went on to say that one of the reasons for reductions in recruitment was because Democrats are trying to screen “out the white extremists, the white nationalists, people that don’t believe in our agenda, as Joe Biden’s agenda.”

Clarification

Concerns about white nationalists in military ranks extend before Joe Biden won the 2020 presidential election. For instance, an October 2020 Pentagon report to Congress detailed the military’s efforts to keep extremists, particularly fascists, out of the military.

In terms of recruitment, military officials have expressed concerned about the shrinking number of potential recruits, but have cited other factors. According to this NBC News article from June 2022, “the pool of those eligible to join the military continues to shrink, with more young men and women than ever disqualified for obesity, drug use or criminal records. Last month, Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville testified before Congress that only 23% of Americans ages 17-24 are qualified to serve without a waiver to join, down from 29% in recent years.”

Note 4

Tuberville on January 6th rioters and protestors

Tuberville said of those participating in the insurrection, “There were probably a hundred of them that came in, broke windows and broke doors that should have been locked up.”

He added “there were hundreds of thousands that didn’t come in, outside.”

Fact Check

According to NPR, “More than two years after rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol, prosecutors have now charged more than 1,000 people in relation to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack.”

The L.A. Times reported law enforcement said the crowd size ahead of the protest was possibly as much as 80,000, according to then-Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy. The crowd size that began to march towards the capitol was at least 10,000, according to the Associated Press.

 

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