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Right-wing media boost Tommy Tuberville’s plan to legislatively sabotage the military

On Newsmax, Tuberville boasted: “We’re going to have holds for a long, long time, and they can just get used to it”

Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) has gone on a right-wing media tour to promote his single-handed blockade of hundreds of military promotions, in which he has denied the Senate’s normal process of approving these nominations by routine consent. His media appearances reveal that Tuberville’s public campaign is about more than just his initially stated pretense — to oppose the military’s policy of providing travel allowances for service members seeking abortions — but has also expanded into a full-throated attack against diversity, inclusion, and “wokeness” in the U.S. military.

  • Tuberville’s right-wing cable appearances focused on not just abortion, but the supposedly “woke” military

    • On Newsmax, Tuberville boasted: “And so, there's no way they're going to talk me out of this. We’re going to have holds for a long, long time, and they can just get used to it.” Newsmax host Greg Kelly falsely claimed that military leaders had become “very, very political” in order to get their promotions. Tuberville further added, “The problem I’m having now is we’re becoming more and more woke every day. It started under Obama.” [Newsmax, Greg Kelly Reports, 9/5/23]
  • Video file

    Citation From the September 5, 2023, edition of Newsmax’s Greg Kelly Reports

    • Fox News host Laura Ingraham claimed the “controversial nominees” themselves were a “potential problem” and “over the top on the woke meter.” After struggling to name a single individual whose promotion nomination he felt should be disqualified, Tuberville singled out Air Force Gen. C.Q. Brown, the nominee for chairman of the Joint Chiefs, for saying there should be more Black pilots. [Fox News, The Ingraham Angle, 9/6/23]
  • Video file

    Citation From the September 6, 2023, edition of Fox News’ The Ingraham Angle

  • Right-wing media defended Tuberville’s blockade

    • The Federalist offered praise: “Tuberville’s Block On Military Promotions Is Freezing Biden’s Slate Of Woke Nominees.” The article attacked individual nominees for acknowledging the existence of institutional racism and promoting diversity and inclusion. [The Federalist, 8/30/23]
    • Fox News congressional correspondent Aishah Hasnie claimed that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) “isn’t trying harder to get around these military holds.” Hasnie’s question to Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) essentially laid the blame on Democrats, taking Republican intransigence for granted. Hasnie further claimed that “neither side [is] willing to budge.” [Fox News, America’s Newsroom, 9/7/23]
    • Fox’s website pushed the pro-Tuberville headline: “Tuberville showered with support as Biden admin refuses to urge Democrats to vote on held military nominations.” [Fox News, 9/7/23]
    • Ben Shapiro declared, “Fact, a disproportionate number of members in the military are conservative,” as a reason to overrule the abortion travel policy. “You want to go directly at those people by turning the military into the leading point of the spear when it comes to abortion policy? Absolute nuttiness,” Shapiro said. “But again, it’s social policy über alles for this administration.” [The Daily Wire, The Ben Shapiro Show, 9/7/23]
  • The military is still not paying for abortion services, only for additional travel costs

    • After the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, service members and their families’ access to legal abortion could depend on where they were stationed. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin determined that the prospect of individual military personnel having to pay additional travel costs would “interfere with our ability to recruit, retain, and maintain the readiness of a highly qualified force.” [Forbes, 10/20/22]
    • Military personnel still have to pay for the procedure itself. As a result, this policy does not violate the Hyde Amendment’s prohibition on federal funds paying for abortion. [Vox, 7/16/23]
    • Instead of blocking nominations, Republicans could otherwise pass specific legislation to repeal the travel policy. The Republican-controlled House passed the legislation 221-213. This could set up a potential showdown over government funding, but that scenario would still be part of a normal legislative process. [The New York Times, 7/13/23]
  • Tuberville’s military holds are harming military readiness and service families

    • Tuberville’s actions are now obstructing 300 military promotions. As a result, the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps do not have Senate-confirmed chiefs. [The Associated Press, 9/7/23]
    • Gen. Eric Smith, the blocked nominee for Marine Corps commandant, explained that the situation has a “ripple effect” that “is actually pretty significant.” Smith told Roll Call that he will have to hand out his prior duties as assistant commandant to other officers, who will in turn have to redistribute their other duties. In addition, he is unable to release an official Commandant’s Planning Guidance. [Roll Call, 7/11/23]
    • A former chairman of the Joint Chiefs says the situation damages officers’ authority. Retired Adm. Mike Mullen explained, “And when you're an acting leader, quite frankly, can you lay out a new strategy? Can you lay out a new plan, per se? And I would argue that you can't. … Quite frankly, that term of acting is one that is of concern, because people are not really sure if you're going to be there.” [PBS, PBS NewsHour, 8/22/23]
    • Gen. C.Q. Brown, whom Tuberville criticized by name, has called out the impact on military families. “Whether it’s school, whether it’s employment, whether it’s the fact that they already sold their home because they thought they were going to move and are now living in temporary quarters, that creates a challenge,” Brown said at his Senate confirmation hearing. [Defense News, 7/11/23]
    • Over 500 military spouses have petitioned the Senate to end the confirmation blockade. “This is not a football game,” said Sarah Streyder, executive director of the Secure Families Initiative. “This is our future. This is our lives.” [Stars and Stripes, 7/25/23]
    • A survey by the organization Blue Star Families revealed the disruption to their lives. One spouse of an active-duty service member said: “We are being sent to an ‘acting’ position with no idea how long we'll be living out of suitcases. … It is difficult to look for a new job with no timeline for the next potential move.” [Stars and Stripes, 9/6/23]
  • Tuberville claims his hold is about the abortion travel policy — in fact, he is openly attacking military diversity and inclusion

    • Tuberville reposted an attack against one of the nominees for having spoken at a military Pride Month celebration. The senator added: “The Biden Administration’s liberal and woke policies are the real threat to military readiness.” [Twitter/X, 8/22/23; MSNBC, 8/23/23]
    • Tuberville’s staff sent reporters a Twitter/X thread by a group attacking the military nominees individually. The thread by a right-wing group singled out individual nominees for supporting diversity initiatives and gender equality. [Twitter/X, 8/23/23]
    • Tuberville reported another thread attacking a nominee for anti-racist commentaries. Further in the thread, the right-wing group attacked the Army colonel for opposing Confederate statues. [Twitter/X, 8/24/23; Stars and Stripes, 8/24/23]
  • Tuberville previously defended white nationalists serving in the U.S. military

    • Tuberville on white nationalists: “I call them Americans.” In an interview with the NPR affiliate in Birmingham, Alabama, Tuberville claimed “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.” When asked a follow-up question as to whether white nationalists belong in the U.S. military, he replied, “Well, they call them that. I call them Americans.” [WBHM, 5/8/23]
    • Two months later, Tuberville pushed the inflammatory claim that “if you’re going to do away with most white people in this country, out of the military, we got huge problems.” In the same CNN interview, Tuberville claimed, “I am 110% against racism,” and repeatedly denied that a white nationalist is by definition racist. [CNN, 7/10/23]
    • After continued public outrage, Tuberville finally admitted, “White nationalists are racists.” Tuberville made the comment briefly to reports in the Capitol hallway, and did not elaborate further on his prior statements. [The Associated Press, 7/11/23]