Update: After facing a barrage of criticism, Tuberville appears to have finally acknowledged that white nationalists are, indeed, racist.
Tommy Tuberville, after a day of back-and-forth over his white nationalist comments to @kaitlancollins, tells reporters: “White nationalists are racists.”
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) July 11, 2023
In a heated interview with CNN’s Kaitlan Collins, Sen. Tommy Tuberville claimed that it’s just “some people’s opinion” that white nationalists hold racist beliefs. On Monday night, when Collins pressed the Alabama Republican on his previous comments about white nationalists serving in the US military, Tuberville doubled down, saying they have every right to serve…as long as they’re not racist.
“My opinion of a white nationalist—if somebody wants to call them white nationalist—to me is an American,” said Tuberville. “Now, if that white nationalist is a racist, I’m totally against anything that they want to do, because I am 110-percent against racism. But I want somebody that’s in our military, that’s strong, that believes in this country, that’s an American that will fight along[side] anybody.”
The United States military has a well-documented history of white supremacists in its ranks. A 2019 Military Times survey found that roughly one-third of active duty troops had reported “personally witnessed examples of white nationalism or ideological-driven racism within the ranks in recent months.” Troops told the Military Times they’d seen “swastikas being drawn on service members’ cars, tattoos affiliated with white supremacist groups, stickers supporting the Ku Klux Klan and Nazi-style salutes between individuals.”
The Jan. 6 attack on the US Capitol, which involved a number of defendants who had served in the military, prompted the federal government to reexamine personnel and attempt to curb extremism. In April 2021, Defense Secretary LLoyd Austin created a working group to combat extremism in the military.
This year, during a radio interview with WBHM, Tuberville criticized these efforts, claiming they were harming the military’s ability to reach its recruitment goals.
“We are losing in the military so fast. Our readiness in terms of recruitment,” said Tuberville at the time. “And why? I’ll tell you why, because the Democrats are attacking our military, saying we need to get out the white extremists, the white nationalists, people that don’t believe in our agenda, as Joe Biden’s agenda. They’re destroying it.”
While precise definitions of “white nationalism” may vary, Tuberville’s comments make little sense. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, white nationalist groups “espouse white supremacist or white separatist ideologies, often focusing on the alleged inferiority of nonwhite persons,” with the ultimate goal of creating a “white ethnostate.” A non-racist white nationalist is an oxymoron, a fact that Tuberville refused to accept several times during his CNN appearance Monday.