Former President Donald Trump on Friday bashed military leaders’ recent statements on the need to study racial strife as “pathetic” and said he would have fired them for such talk during his time in office.
During an interview on Newsmax, Trump was asked about the introduction of “critical race theory” in workplaces and schools. He quickly shifted the discussion to Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley, who earlier this week offered an impassioned defense of the topic during a House Armed Services Committee hearing.
“General Milley, I watched his statement and it was pathetic,” said Trump, who bypassed other top military officials to promote Milley to the top uniformed military post in 2019. “I watched the statements of some others, your head of the Navy, it was pathetic.
“They didn’t talk that way when I was around, I can tell you. They didn’t talk that way or I would have gotten rid of them in two minutes.”
Milley has received praise from many progressive groups and scorn from many conservatives in the wake of the nearly two-minute speech, which followed statements from Rep. Mike Waltz, R-Fla. and a former Green Beret, saying that topics like “white rage” should not be taught at West Point.
“I’ve read Mao Zedong. I’ve read Karl Marx. I’ve read Lenin. That doesn’t make me a communist,” Milley said.
“What is wrong with understanding, having some situational understanding about the country for which we are here to defend? And I personally find it offensive that we are accusing the United States military, general officers, commissioned and noncommissioned officers of being quote ‘woke,’ or something else because we’re studying some theories that are out there.”
Last week, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday offered a similar response on the issue to Republican lawmakers during his appearance before the committee.
“There is racism in the Navy just as there is racism in our country, and the way we are going to get out of it is by being honest and not to sweep it under the rug,” he said, saying that sailors need to be introduced to controversial topics “to be able to think critically.”
White House officials have repeatedly voiced the need for diversity and understanding since President Joe Biden took office earlier this year.
During an appearance before the Senate Armed Services Committee earlier this month, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin stated that “diversity, equity and inclusion is important to this military now and it will be important in the future.”
But numerous conservative commentators and lawmakers have argued that teaching about past American racism and racist policies amounts to liberal indoctrination.
This week, Fox News personality Tucker Carlson blasted Milley’s response to the topic by saying “he’s not just a pig, he’s stupid” and that it is “hard to believe that man wears a uniform.”
White House officials did not respond to Trump’s comments or other attacks by conservatives on Milley.
Navy Rear Adm. Charles Brown, a spokesman for Gilday, declined comment. Army Col. Dave Butler, a spokesmen for Milley, also declined comment.
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.