A prominent Republican senator this weekend demanded a personal meeting with Marine Corps leadership to explain why officials in charge of some service social media accounts insulted and “intimidated” conservative pundit Tucker Carlson for his comments about women in the military.
“These actions run the risk of creating a culture of contempt for our country’s civilian leadership within the enlisted ranks and among junior officers which will be corrosive to the good order and discipline of the military,” Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, wrote in a letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin requesting the meeting.
“I am deeply concerned about what it portends for the direction that you and President (Joe) Biden intend to move the military.”
Cruz’ letter was the latest in a series of conservative complaints following the military’s response to Tucker’s comments last week, where he accused Defense Department leaders of “feminizing” the military after officials changed the style of some uniforms for pregnant women and updated hair regulations to allow more women’s styles.
He also said the moves made it easier for adversaries like the Chinese government to gain ground on U.S. military might.
In response, a series of department leaders condemned the attack, saying that women are a critical part of the fighting force and the comments made by the Fox News personality demeaned their service.
Last Thursday, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said that Austin “shared the revulsion of so many others” when he heard Carlson’s comments.
“What we absolutely won’t do is take personnel advice from a talk show host or the Chinese military,” he said. “Now maybe those folks feel like they have something to prove. That’s on them. We know we’re the greatest military in the world today, and even for all the things we need to improve, and we know exactly why that’s so.”
Individuals running the II Marine Expeditionary Force’s Twitter account joined in on the criticism of Carlson, posting several messages of support for women service members and lashing out at one angry commenter “Come back when you’ve served and been pregnant.”
Officials took down that message a few hours later.
“We are human and we messed up,” officials posted on the site. “We intended to speak up for female Marines and it was an effort to support them. They are a crucial part to our corps and we need them to know that. We will adjust fire and ensure the utmost professionalism in our tweets.”
But Cruz said that isn’t enough.
Along with the personal meeting with Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Beger, Cruz asked for “an official response from the department and implementation of a policy that insulates other units from being similarly mobilized against the speech of American citizens or in the service of left wing political causes.”
Other Democratic lawmakers supported the military’s efforts to push back against insinuations that women cannot serve as well as men in the armed forces.
“Tucker Carlson’s comments not only disrespect the sacrifice women in uniform make, they demonstrate a depth of ignorance about the deep contributions women have made to protecting our nation,” wrote Rep. Ami Bera, D-Calif., in a Twitter post last week. “I stand with our women in uniform.”
Marine Corps officials did not respond to requests for comment on Cruz’ letter.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.