Brenda "Sue" Fulton, left, greets soldiers in this 2013 photo. Fulton has been nominated to be the assistant defense secretary for manpower and reserve affairs.

Brenda "Sue" Fulton, left, greets soldiers in this 2013 photo. Fulton has been nominated to be the assistant defense secretary for manpower and reserve affairs. U.S. Army / Sgt. 1st Class Stanley Maszczak

GOP Lawmakers Slam Pentagon Nominee for Tweets

“Do you believe every Republican in the GOP...are they all racist?” Sen. Dan Sullivan asked Brenda Fulton.

Republicans on Thursday slammed President Joe Biden’s pick to lead the Pentagon’s manpower office for tweets that called their party racist and white Evangelical leaders “unmoored from the gospel of Jesus Christ.” 

In a bruising confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Brenda “Sue” Fulton, who is nominated to be the assistant defense secretary for manpower and reserve affairs, fielded angry questions from Republicans about some of her tweets since 2014. 

Among them was this tweet from Jan. 12, 2018: “It’s not a political statement to say the GOP is racist; it’s a moral statement, and one backed up by an increasing mountain of evidence.”

A former Army officer, Fulton graduated from the U.S. Military Academy’s first class to include women, and went on to become the first openly gay member of the academy’s Board of Visitors in 2011. Most recently, she served as the chief administrator of the New Jersey Motor Vehicles Commission. 

Displaying some of the tweets on posters in the hearing room, GOP lawmakers asked Fulton whether she believed all members of their party are racist and whether she would support freedom of religion among the troops she would lead if confirmed.

Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., highlighted a tweet from March 20, 2014, that mentioned “right-wing anti-everyone nutjobs falling in love with a dictatorship.”

“Would you consider that Republican reservists and Guardsmen whose interests you will be representing at the Pentagon, would you consider them to be nutjobs? Would you consider them to be racist?” Blackburn asked. 

Other Republicans, such as Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, asked more bluntly: “Do you believe every Republican in the GOP—are they all racist?” 

Fulton repeatedly apologized for the tweet, arguing that her wording did not accurately portray what she meant. She also highlighted her work with Republicans while on the military academy’s board to show her ability to put personal opinions aside and work across the aisle with people who hold different viewpoints. 

“My intent was to say that racism isn’t Democratic or Republican, that it’s not a political issue. It’s a moral issue...but I went about it all wrong. The words are muddled and confused and I deeply regret them,” Fulton said.

Multiple Republicans said her apology was not enough, and said that they would not support her nomination. 

Ultimately, more than half a dozen GOP senators raised the issue of her tweets, including Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., and Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla, the top Republican on the committee. 

Inhofe asked her, “Do you consider me to be a radical because I don’t support abortion?”  

Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., slammed Fulton for a tweet on Aug. 29, 2017, that said, “The vast majority of white evangelical leaders are utterly unmoored from the gospel of Jesus Christ.” Cotton hammered Fulton on what she meant by majority, asking her to put a percentage on how many leaders are “unmoored,” and why she singled out white evangelical leaders versus those of any other race.

If confirmed, Fulton would oversee the Defense Department’s religious accommodations policy and chaplain corps. She said that she supported religious freedom, and would uphold it for all troops if confirmed. 

“I know there were several points at which I felt the president had made statements or taken actions that I felt were in direct contradiction with the way I understand Jesus’ teaching,” she said, adding that she is a Christian. 

Fulton also faced some backlash for previous tweets about Marines, including one on Dec. 19, 2016, that said, “So tired of #USMC women fighting to keep combat ban b/c they want so badly for the male Marines to love them. #CoOpted #StockholmSyndrome.”

“That’s a blatant insult to the women in the U.S. Marine Corps,” Sullivan said. “Why the hell would you say something like that?” 

The future of her nomination is not clear. Democrats did not question Fulton about her tweets, and Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., seemed to defend her near the end of the hearing, highlighting her military career as a trailblazer for women and pointing out her past work with people of different backgrounds and beliefs. 

“The performance of your duties, you’ve done it in a way that is based on the principles...of duty, honor, country,” Reed said. “Other factors, which you might privately [believe], as we all have private thoughts and ideas, do not influence your professional activities.”