Pentagon Officials, Uniformed Leaders Slam Fox’s Carlson Over Female-Troop Comments

“What we absolutely won't do is take personnel advice from a talk show host,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Thursday.

Updated: This article has been updated to include additional reaction from senior military leaders and other officials.

Pentagon officials and senior uniformed leaders are hotly denying disparaging claims made by talk show host Tucker Carlson about women in American military service. 

On Wednesday, the Fox host offered what Pentagon spokesman John Kirby called a “monologue” in which he criticized recent policy changes that benefit female services members, such as more flexible hair regulations and uniforms that better fit women — including pregnant ones. 

“So we've got new hairstyles and maternity flight suits," Carlson said. "Pregnant women are going to fight our wars. It's a mockery of the U.S. military.”

High-ranking military personnel were quick to respond. 

“Women lead our most lethal units with character,” Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael Grinston tweeted Wednesday evening. “They will dominate ANY future battlefield we’re called to fight on. @TuckerCarlson’s words are divisive, don’t reflect our values. We have THE MOST professional, educated, agile, and strongest NCO Corps in the world.”

"What I would say is, I'm extremely proud of the 185,000 women that serve with distinction every single day in the United States Army," Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville said Thursday. 

“I’ll remind everyone that his opinion, which he has a right to, is based off of actually zero days in the armed forces,” Master Gunnery Sgt. Scott H. Stalker, Command Senior Enlisted Leader of United States Space Command said in a tweeted video. “My opinion is based off of 28 years of actual service in the military...the bottom line is that we value women in our armed forces.”

"Our All-Volunteer Military depends on America’s daughters and sons willingness to serve and, if necessary, to put themselves in harm’s way for their fellow citizens," retired Gen. Martin Dempsey tweeted. "Think about that if anyone ever questions our fabric as either a profession or as a nation."

The U.S. Army as a whole — via its official Twitter account — threw in its two cents with a thread of photos of female service members captioned with the Soldier’s Creed. 

While senior administrative leaders at the Pentagon have been known to clap back at celebrity critics from time to time, it's far rarer for top uniformed personnel to do so. When asked if Defense Secretary Austin had concerns about uniformed personnel sharing responses to Carlson’s comments, Kirby said Austin “doesn’t have concerns about their willingness to do that.”

“The secretary certainly shares the revulsion of many others to what Mr. Carlson said in his opening statement,” the spokesman said. 

"What we absolutely won't do is take personnel advice from a talk show host or the Chinese military,” Kirby said. “We are better and more effective not only when we represent the American people, all the American people, but also when we have the moral courage to include other perspectives and ideas into our decision-making perspective.” 

Members of Congress also began to respond on Thursday. Rep. Mikie Sherrill, D-NJ, a U.S. Naval Academy graduate who was a pilot of Navy SH-3 Sea King helicopters, said, "I signed up to serve my country at 18. @TuckerCarlson did not. I served with women who risked their lives to protect our country. Tucker did not. While he denigrates those who serve, our military remains the best fighting force due, in large part, to our amazing servicewomen."

Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., a former Army helicopter pilot who lost both of her legs in the Iraq War, on her campaign Twitter feed, said, "F*ck Tucker Carlson. While he was practicing his two-step, America’s female warriors were hunting down Al Qaeda and proving the strength of America’s women." 

As the Defense Department continues to face scrutiny for its handling of sexual assault and harassment within the ranks, it has also made significant strides in recent years to the benefit of female services members, specifically when it comes to reproductive health.

At the end of July 2020, the U.S. Air Force adjusted its policy on pregnant and postpartum members attending professional military education courses. Pregnant and postpartum airmen are now able to attend PME courses within the first year after giving birth — this previously would have required an exception to policy. Additionally, airmen who experience miscarriages now have the option to delay physical fitness assessments for a certain period of time after miscarrying depending on the duration of the pregnancy. 

Last August, DoD launched a survey focused on the reproductive health of female service members, the first such in more than three decades. Pregnancy-based anti-discrimination efforts were also included in then-Defense Secretary Mark Esper’s July 2020 efforts to address al issues of discrimination across the force. 

“I hope that in the reaction [Carlson’s] seen and hopefully in our reaction here today, he'll realize the mistake he made and express some regret about the manner in which he essentially demeaned the entire U.S. military and how we defend and serve this country,” Kirby said. 

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