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Tuberville appears to defend white nationalists in the military

Tommy Tuberville’s spokesperson tried to walk it back, but the Republican senator from Alabama appeared to defend white nationalists in the U.S. military.


When it comes to Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s troubled political career, some of the most serious controversies surrounding the Alabama Republican involve things he’s done: The GOP senator’s first vote on Capitol Hill, for example, was to reject the results of the 2020 presidential election. More recently, Tuberville’s blockade against U.S. military promotions has drawn bipartisan condemnations.

But things the Alabaman has said have repeatedly undermined his credibility and reputation.

As regular readers might recall, it was shortly after the senator was elected in 2020 when the former college football coach flubbed the basics of World War II. He soon after struggled with how recent presidential elections have been resolved.

A few months later, Tuberville misstated the three branches of the U.S. government. Last year, the Alabaman made the case that Russia invaded Ukraine in order to acquire “more farmland,” which really didn’t make any sense, before making ugly comments about race, crime, and reparations. This week, the GOP lawmaker said the verdict against Trump in the E. Jean Carroll case “makes me want to vote for him twice.”

His comments about white nationalists in the military, however, should probably be seen as his most serious controversy to date. NBC News reported:

Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., appeared to defend white nationalists in a recent interview by suggesting they should not be barred from serving in the military, prompting his office to clarify the remarks.

At issue is an interview the senator did last week with WBHM, the NPR affiliate in Birmingham, which asked how his blockade against military promotions might be perceived by U.S. adversaries.

“We are losing in the military so fast. Our readiness in terms of recruitment,” the Republican replied, according to the station’s transcript. “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.”

Soon after, WBHM’s Richard Banks added, “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?” Tuberville responded, “Well, they call them that. I call them Americans.”

Yesterday, a spokesperson for the senator tried to diffuse the controversy. “Sen. Tuberville’s quote shows that he was being skeptical of the notion that there are white nationalists in the military, not that he believes they should be in the military,” an aide said in a statement.

So, a few things.

First, if the transcript from the local station is accurate, there seems to be a noticeable gap between what Tuberville actually said and how his spokesperson interpreted the senator’s comments.

Second, to pretend that white nationalists haven’t targeted service members and veterans is a mistake. It’s a scourge that Pentagon officials — before President Joe Biden’s term — have expressed concern about.

Third, as NBC News’ report noted that as recently as March, Tuberville complained to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin about efforts to “root out extremists” in the military, which adds highly relevant context.

Fourth, given the Republican’s earlier offensive rhetoric about race, he hasn’t exactly earned the benefit of the doubt.

And finally, it is profoundly ironic to hear Tuberville, of all people, try to pitch the idea that “the Democrats are attacking our military,” while he personally imposes a blockade on military promotions that every living Defense secretary from the last quarter-century — including Donald Trump’s former Pentagon chiefs and two former GOP senators — believe the Alabaman is undermining the military and U.S. security.

If the senator is looking for someone who’s actually “attacking our military,” I think someone on Capitol Hill should hand him a mirror.