Actor Chuck Norris is shifting his tone on the U.S. military training exercise known as Jade Helm 15 as he tries to distance himself from wild conspiracy theories—which he helped stoke—about the operation.
"I never ever said that that seven-state U.S. military operation intended to take over Texas," the "Walker, Texas Ranger" star and gun-rights champion wrote Sunday for the far-right website WorldNetDaily.
"However, I did in fact mention that Jade Helm 15 is likely more than a military exercise," added Norris, who has been a major supporter of former Arkansas governor and 2016 presidential candidate Mike Huckabee. "I do believe, in addition to the largest domestic military training, it is also a display of power (near the southern border) intended for deterrence of enemies like ISIS and other terrorists, who the FBI have already said are present in all 50 states."
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In an earlier WorldNetDaily column, Norris had helped feed growing Internet-fueled paranoia about the operation, some of which has raised the fear that the U.S. government is moving to take over Texas. Norris adding his voice to those questioning the federal government's description of Jade Helm as a training exercise, and praised Texas Governor Greg Abbott for ordering the Texas State Guard to monitor the operation.
"What’s under question are those who are pulling the strings at the top of Jade Helm 15 back in Washington," Norris wrote. "The U.S. government says, 'It’s just a training exercise.' But I’m not sure the term 'just' has any reference to reality when the government uses it."
In that earlier column, Norris did indeed raise the notion that the operation was related to the presence of ISIS fighters in the U.S.—but he also seemed to hint at more sinister motives on the part of the federal government, writing that the purpose might be "deterrence, display of power or something more covert or devious."
Asked at a press conference earlier this month whether the military is aiming to take over Texas, U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter said: "No."
In the new column Sunday, Norris sought to keep talking tough while scaling back his criticism of the Obama administration as more about poor public relations.
"[T]he White House and the Pentagon could have easily avoided any controversy about Jade Helm 15 if its primary Washington leaders would have called for a confidential informative meeting with the respected governors of the seven states in which it is being held this summer," Norris wrote. "They also would have been very wise not to place on Jade Helm’s official operation map that Texas and Utah were 'hostile states.' When will they learn? Don’t mess with Texas!"
In 2012, Norris and his wife said in a "public service announcement" video posted online that re-electing President Obama would lead to "1,000 years of darkness."