Senator Tommy Tuberville, R–Ala., is facing criticism for what some have interpreted as defending white nationalists in a recent interview, a statement which has been clarified by his office.
In a recent interview with Birmingham–based radio station WBHM, Tuberville suggested that Democrats were to blame for the decline in military readiness, and appeared to suggest that white nationalists should not be barred from service in the military.
“We are losing in the military — so fast — our readiness in terms of recruitment,” said Tuberville, a member of the Armed Services Committee. “And why? I can 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 [President Joe Biden‘s] agenda.”
When asked whether he believed white nationalists should be allowed in the military, Tuberville said: “They call them that. I call them Americans.”
Tuberville‘s office has since clarified the remarks, saying that the senator was expressing skepticism that white nationalism was an issue among service members.
“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,” Steven Stafford said in a statement.
Stafford added that Tuberville was “referring to this specific training issue that lots of other people, lots of other senators have talked about.”
At a March 28 hearing with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Tuberville suggested Austin had put service members through “hell“ by requiring “a mandatory training to root out extremists.”
The Defense Department has called for changes to recruiting methods to identify any applicants’ possible ties to domestic terrorism, and Austin has ordered new steps to address the threat posed by extremism in the military.
Tuberville‘s comments have sparked outrage and confusion from both sides of the political aisle, with many questioning why he would defend white nationalists.
Whether Tuberville‘s remarks were misinterpreted or not, they will likely continue to be scrutinized and discussed in the days and weeks to come.