In an extraordinary rebuke, the Pentagon and several senior members of the US military called out Fox News host Tucker Carlson on Thursday for a sexist segment in which he mocked women serving in the armed forces.
Carlson, who is effectively the face of Fox and hosts the top show on the right-wing channel, ridiculed President Joe Biden Tuesday for saying that the US military had created uniforms to fit women properly, created maternity flight suits for those who are pregnant, and updated requirements for hairstyles.
“So we’ve got new hairstyles and maternity flight suits,” Carlson snarked. “Pregnant women are going to fight our wars. It’s a mockery of the US military.”
Carlson’s comments have prompted severe backlash from some of the most senior members of the US military who took to Twitter on Wednesday and Thursday to call Carlson out for what they described as harmful and divisive rhetoric.
Speaking to reporters Thursday, Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said the Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin shared the same “revulsion” that many military leaders have expressed about the comments Carlson made.
Kirby said the military still had “a lot of work to do” to become “more inclusive, more respectful of everyone — especially women.”
“We pledge to do better, and we will,” Kirby said. “What we absolutely won’t do is take personnel advice from a talk show host, or the Chinese military. Maybe those folks feel like they have something to prove. That’s on them.”
The pointed comments from Kirby came as a number of senior military leaders excoriated Carlson for his rhetoric.
“Women lead our most lethal units with character. They will dominate ANY future battlefield we’re called to fight on,” tweeted the Sergeant Major of the Army, Michael A. Grinston. “@TuckerCarlson’s words are divisive, don’t reflect our values. We have THE MOST professional, educated, agile, and strongest NCO Corps in the world.”
General Paul Funk, who as head of Army Training and Doctrine Command sets policy and guides future changes for troops, tweeted that “thousands of women serve honorably every day around the globe.”
“They are beacons of freedom and they prove Carlson wrong through determination and dedication,” Funk added. “We are fortunate they serve with us.”
The senior enlisted leader at the US Space Command, Marine Corps Master Gunnery Sgt. Scott H. Stalker, posted a video in which he called Carlson’s show “drama TV” and said he wished to “remind everyone” that Carlson’s opinion was “based off of actually zero days of service in the armed forces.”
Major General Patrick Donahoe posted a video of him “conducting a re-enlistment for one of the tens of thousands of women who serve in our Army.”
“Just a reminder that @TuckerCarlson couldn’t be more wrong,” Donahoe said. Fort Hood Deputy Commanding General John B. Richardson IV tweeted, “Mothers in uniform fight & win our nation’s wars. Fathers in uniform fight & win our nation’s wars. Soldier is not a gendered noun.”
Lieutenant General Theodore D. Martin shared a photo of his daughter and said that “contrary to what you may be hearing” she and other women “are NOT” making “a mockery of our military.”
“You WISH your daughter was as AWESOME as MINE!” Martin added. “So BACK OFF.”
A spokesperson for Fox did not respond to a request for comment Thursday morning.
Carlson regularly makes incendiary comments on his primetime show. He was also called out by The New York Times this week for encouraging harassment against one of its journalists. And, in the past, he has seen large-scale advertiser boycotts over comments on the Black Lives Matter movement and immigration.
Carlson’s top writer quit his job last year after a CNN report revealed he had for years used a pseudonym to post racist and sexist remarks on an online forum.
The programming on Fox has become increasingly extreme in the last several years and even more so following the November election when it saw competition from smaller channels making a bid for its conservative audience.
The days in which Fox marketed itself as a “fair & balanced” news channel are long gone. Most of the channel’s programming is now filled with right-wing commentary.
Fox Corporation chief executive Lachlan Murdoch even conceded recently that he views the network’s role in the Biden years as being the “loyal opposition” to the White House.