WASHINGTON — U.S. Senator Tommy Tuberville said he objected to efforts by a top military official to recruit and promote racial minorities in the armed forces, saying equal opportunity threatens military readiness.
“Let me tell you something. Our military is not an equal opportunity employer,” the Alabama Republican said in an interview with Bloomberg Television’s “Balance of Power” Tuesday.
“We’re looking for the best of the best to do whatever. We’re not looking for different groups, social justice groups. We don’t want to single-handedly destroy our military from within,” he said. “We all need to be one. It’s like a football team I coached. You can’t have different groups. Everybody’s got to be together to win. There’s no second place in war.”
Tuberville, the former head football coach at Auburn University, has been at the center of debates over the U.S. armed forces since placing a block on military promotions to protest the Biden administration’s abortion policies.
He said he voted against Air Force General Charles Q. Brown Jr.’s nomination as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff last week because “I think he has some woke policies.” Brown’s nomination passed, 83-11.
“I heard some things that he talked about, about race and things that he wanted to mix into the military,” Tuberville said. He said he specifically objected to Brown’s call for more diversity in the ranks of Air Force pilots, only about 2% of whom are Black.
“He came out and he said we need certain groups, more pilots. Certain groups to have an opportunity to be pilots. Listen, I want it to be on merit. I want our military to be the best. I want it to be the best people. I don’t care who they are. Men, women. It doesn’t make any difference. Catholics, Protestants,” he said. “Don’t give me this stuff about equal opportunity, because that’s not what this military is about.”
The U.S. military has had an equal opportunity policy since 1948, when President Harry Truman signed an executive order desegregating the military and guaranteeing “equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed services without regard to race, color, religion or national origin.”
That order, 16 years before passage of the Civil Rights Act, was a significant force in the desegregation of U.S. society.
Representative Jim Clyburn, a South Carolina Democrat, immediately condemned Tuberville’s remarks.
“He is the worst of the worst,” Clyburn said in an interview with Bloomberg Television. “The people of Alabama ought to be embarrassed about that.”
The temporary opening in the blockade to confirm Brown as well as the new Army chief of staff and Marine Corps commandant doesn’t resolve more than 300 nominations still being held up.
“My hold is still in place,” Tuberville said on the Senate floor Wednesday.
(With assistance from Joe Mathieu and Annmarie Hordern.)
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