Looking consciously toward the midterm elections, Fox News has already embarked on a political campaign to stir up as much paranoia as possible around any discussions of racism in American society — fearmongering about calls for social justice under the buzzword of “critical race theory.” And the network’s newest target: diversity in the U.S. military.
In reality, critical race theory is a broad academic discipline that seeks to explore how the history of racism in America still has an effect on modern life and society. The subject in its proper form is more typically discussed in the halls of higher education, rather than right-wing media outlets.
But in Fox’s telling, any acknowledgment of systemic racism as a real problem is not only part of critical race theory, but the very term “critical race theory” itself has been deliberately rebranded to depict such wider discussions as a “Marxist” plot that could usher in a new tyranny. And with Fox’s relentless media campaign already having borne political fruit — amplifying lies about such discussions of racism and helping to inspire a wave of new legislation in Republican-controlled states that educators say would have a chilling effect on any classroom discussions about racism — the network’s sights are now also set on military policy.
Like any other institution of society, the U.S. military struggles with racism and discrimination, which exist in conflict with its meritocratic ideals. A new article from The Associated Press details how “current and former enlistees and officers in nearly every branch of the armed services described a deep-rooted culture of racism and discrimination that stubbornly festers, despite repeated efforts to eradicate it.”
Internal survey data of service members revealed problems including racist slurs and jokes, as well as a belief that they could not report such things through the normal chain of command for fear of reprisal. According to one Black former airman, who said that racist and discriminatory incidents contributed to his decision to leave the service: “You’re not going to escape racism anywhere in this country. The best interpretation I’ve ever heard of being in the military, especially a minority or a person of color in the military, is that the military is a microcosm of regular society.”
Fox’s long-running narrative, however, is that efforts to combat racism are really degrading to the military itself. In previous years, Fox host Tucker Carlson attacked the idea of diversity in military units, mocking the concept that “the less people have in common the more cohesive they are.” And more recently, Fox host Rachel Campos-Duffy alleged a plot going back to the Obama administration to both make the military less masculine and impose “woke policies” on service members, asking: “Did we study or debate what would happen if we trained our military to hate their country? Or believe that it is systemically racist? The answer's no.”
And with an agenda set up to blame the boogeyman of “critical race theory” for supposedly weakening the military, Fox needs to find one thing: a poster child.
On the May 3 edition of Fox News Primetime, rotating guest host Pete Hegseth and Fox News contributor Mike Pompeo responded to a recruitment video featuring a “proud, first-generation Latina and officer at CIA.”
“Whoa, is that the CIA you are familiar with, sir?” Hegseth asked Pompeo, who served in the Trump administration as CIA director and then secretary of state.
Immediately after speaking with Pompeo, Hegseth interviewed Robert O’Neill, a former Navy SEAL who has publicly claimed to be the service member who shot Osama bin Laden. Hegseth asked O’Neill: “Do you believe — because the CIA was so central to tracking bin Laden for 10 years. Could they do that today or, like the military, is the CIA more concerned with intersectionality and confessing anxiety disorders and being cisgender?”
Such a statement might seem odd, though, as bin Laden was killed in 2011 — during the Obama administration, when the military was supposedly being weakened. Indeed, O’Neill noted that he worked during that period with female CIA agents and people of all races: “It didn't matter what your skin color was, it didn't matter your gender or what your non-gender was.” (But he still claimed that military capability was “being downgraded for wokeness, which is ridiculous.”)
The network has also discovered the recent case of Space Force Lt. Col. Matthew Lohmeier, who was removed from command and is now under investigation for comments he made to promote his new self-published book, in which he claims that there is “a neo-Marxist agenda at the ground level within our armed forces” based around diversity and inclusion training. (Lohmeier also directly criticized both Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Pentagon press secretary John Kirby, though he also insists: “My intent never has been to engage in partisan politics.”)
Sean Hannity spotlighted Lohmeier’s story on the May 17 edition of his show, declaring that Lohmeier that he was removed for making “explosive revelations about the increasing presence of Marxist and critical race theory ideologies inside the U.S. military.”
Lohmeier invoked a series of “stand down” days ordered throughout the military to address problems of extremism — which were undertaken in the wake of the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by supporters of former President Donald Trump, due to an alarming number of veterans who were involved. But by Lohmeier’s verbal gymnastics, the allegedly “Marxist” diversity training measures would qualify under such an assignment to root out the “extremist” threat.
Tucker Carlson next hosted Lohmeier on the May 26 edition of his online Fox Nation show, Tucker Carlson Today — during which Lohmeier also revealed that his complaints about diversity training materials went back much further.
“I've tried to bring this up a number of times, in fact, filed a formal complaint with the Space Force Inspector General's office last November about these very issues,” Lohmeier said. “Laid it out in a seven-page complaint, talking about how concerning it was to me that I saw divisions fomenting within the force based on critical race theory-based diversity and inclusion trainings.”
Previously, Carlson warned his viewers that the effort to combat white supremacist elements in the military in the wake of January 6 was “not an attempt to make the military better,” but instead “a political purge of the military.”
But this time, the host called for a political purge of his own: “It might be worth taking actual action — like, real action — to stop the takeover of the U.S. military by the lunatics. And I mean — I mean real action. Because you can't have the most powerful military in the world taken over by people who hate the country, who are open racists, as they are. I mean, have you thought of this?”
“Well, I don't know what that might imply,” Lohmeier responded.
And on the May 27 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy again invoked the Lohmeier case: “It was revealed about two weeks ago that the guy from Space Force was relieved of his command because he was explaining how he was watching Marxism and critical race theory creeping into the military. And the defense secretary had said, ‘If you see anything, let us know.’ He did — he got canned.”
Rep. Brian Mast (R-FL) responded that “The most dangerous thing for our military is wokeness.”
But then co-host Brian Kilmeade made an interesting comment: “I think in the end, this is also about votes. Because right now, it’s been a pretty reliable — the military, a vote for Republicans. So what do you go in there, change the culture to the woke culture, and get them voting left.”
Of course, Fox News personalities are actually the ones who are openly talking about using “critical race theory” as a wedge issue — acknowledging that people just weren’t even talking about it before the network kicked up its relentless coverage — in order to “lay the groundwork for November 2022.”