By JUDD LEGUM AND REBECCA CROSBY
National–United States Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) went on national television this week and
defended white nationalists. It was not a slip of the tongue. It was a position that Tuberville has been making publicly for months.
In May, Tuberville appeared on WBHM, an NPR affiliate in Alabama, and criticized the Biden administration’s efforts to root out white nationalists and other extremists from the military.
Tuberville said that “Democrats are attacking our military” by “saying we need to get out the white extremists, the white nationalists.” The interviewer followed up, asking Tuberville if he believed that the Biden administration “should allow white nationalists in the military.” Tuberville responded by suggesting that excluding white nationalists from the military was un-American: Well, they call them [white nationalists]. I call them Americans…[O]ur military and Secretary Austin, put out an order to stand down and all military across the country, saying we’re going to run out the white nationalists, people that don’t believe how we believe. And that’s not how we do it in this country.
Tuberville appeared on CNN Monday evening and was asked by anchor Kaitlin Collins to clarify his remarks. Collins noted that white nationalists believe “that the white race is superior to other races.” Tuberville objected to that characterization, saying it was “some people’s opinion.”
Collins asked Tuberville about his opinion of white nationalism. “My opinion, of a white
nationalist… to me, is an American,” Tuberville said on CNN Monday night.
Notably, Tuberville claimed that a white nationalist, by definition, is not necessarily racist. “If that White nationalist is a racist,” Tuberville said. “I’m totally against anything that they want to do, because I am 110 percent against racism.”
Tuberville said that white nationalists are not necessarily racist and simply have “different beliefs.” When Collins said that “a white nationalist is racist,” Tuberville responded that was her “opinion.” Removing white nationalists from the military, Tuberville suggested, would require removing “most White people, in this country, out of the military.”
On Tuesday at the U.S. Capitol, Tuberville was asked by ABC’s Rachel Scott why he “continues to insist that white nationalists are ‘American.'” Tuberville said he was “totally against racism” and “if the Democrats want to say that white nationalists are racists, I’m totally against that, too.”Scott noted that defining white nationalists as racists is not a “Democratic definition.” Tuberville told the reporter it was “your definition.”
“Next question. Next question. Next question,” Tuberville said, as the reporter attempted to
Tuberville rejects calls to apologize Senator Rafael Warnock (D-GA) expressed concern about Tuberville’s rhetoric. “White nationalism is racism, by definition,” Warnock said. “It’s not a matter of opinion. For the senator to play games with this is dangerous stuff. He should apologize and change course.” Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Tuberville’s efforts “to obscure the racist nature of white nationalism is indeed very, very dangerous.” He also called on Tuberville to apologize. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) stopped short of calling for Tuberville to apologize, but said he disagreed with his position. “White supremacy is simply unacceptable in the military and in our whole country,” McConnell said.
After McConnell’s comments, Tuberville made a half-hearted effort to contain the controversy on Tuesday afternoon, finally saying, “White nationalists are racists.” But Tuberville rejected Schumer’s call for an apology, saying it was Schumer who “needs to apologize.” Tuberville did not elaborate.
Tuberville’s last racist diatribe
In October 2022, Tuberville appeared at a rally in Minden, Nevada, to support the Republican nominee for Senate, Adam Laxit. During his speech at the event, which also featured Donald Trump, Tuberville unleashed a racist diatribe against Black Americans. Tuberville said that reparations, which would provide benefits to Black descendants of slaves, would only benefit criminals.
Some people say, well, [Democrats are] soft on crime. No, they’re not soft on crime. They’re
pro-crime. They want crime. They want crime because they want to take over what you got.
They want to control what you have. They want reparation because they think the
people that do the crime are owed that! Bullshit! The crowd, full of people wearing Trump hats and other MAGA paraphernalia, responded by erupting in applause.
“Senator Tuberville’s comments are flat out racist, ignorant, and utterly sickening,” NAACP
President Derrick Johnson said in a statement. “His words promote a centuries-old lie about Black people that throughout history has resulted in the most dangerous policies and violent attacks on our community.”
CNN anchor Abby Phillip, agreed, calling Tuberville’s comments “straight-up racism from a
sitting United States senator.” The USA Today story about Tuberville’s remarks is headlined
“GOP Sen. Tommy Tuberville promotes racist narrative about Black people, crime at Trump
Congressman Kweisi Mfume (D-MD), himself a former president of the NAACP, called
Tuberville’s statement “the most vicious, vile, repugnant, parochial, racist thing I’ve heard in a long, long time.” Mfume said that Tuberville had revealed himself as a bigot and called on “every elected official on both sides of the aisle” to condemn his remarks.
Tuberville, however, refused to apologize. Instead, he claimed his comments about reparations had nothing to do with race. “To me, reparation means that people think they deserve something. It has nothing to do with slavery or anything like that,” Tuberville said weeks later.
Tuberville insisted that he could not personally be racist because “a lot of my best friends are, you know, black.”
“I’m not apologizing for something I didn’t talk about,” Tuberville said. But like white nationalism, “reparations” has an actual definition.
Tuberville is backed by major American corporations Despite his history of disturbingly racist remarks, Tuberville continues to enjoy the support of major American corporations.
Defense contractor BAE Systems has publicly stated its commitment to “racial equality” and
combating racism. And yet, BAE Systems’ PAC donated $5,500 to Tuberville in 2022. After
Tuberville’s comments about reparations in October, Popular Information reached out to BAE Systems about its support for Tuberville. “We would refer you to our public filings and have no further comment,” a spokesperson for BAE Systems told Popular Information. In March 2023, BAE Systems donated another $2,000 to Tuberville.
Leidos, another defense contractor, donated $4,500 in 2022 to support Tuberville’s reelection campaign and leadership PAC. Previously, Leidos has spoken out against racist remarks by political candidates. When Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS) remarked that she would be willing to attend a lynching while on the campaign trail in 2018, Leidos condemned her remarks.
The company, which had donated $10,000 to Hyde-Smith, called her remarks “offensive and an affront to everything we stand for as a company.” The company said it would not have donated to Hyde-Smith if it had known about the comments and was “pursuing a refund.” But in October, Leidos did not respond to a request for comment about its donations to Tuberville. In March 2023, Leidos donated another $1,000 to Tuberville.
Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon and owner of the space exploration company Blue Origin, has been particularly outspoken about his support for racial equality. In 2020, Bezos posted a message he got from a customer complaining about Amazon’s support for the Black Lives Matter movement, calling it “sickening.” Bezos said that he was “happy to lose” customers who harbor “hate.” Blue Origin also publicly bemoaned the “institutional and individual racism that has long plagued our country.”
Blue Origin’s PAC, however, has donated $6000 to Tuberville’s
reelection campaign. The company did not respond to a request for comment last October.
Other recent corporate PAC donors to Tuberville include Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama
($5000), Charter Communications ($5,000), General Dynamics ($5,000), Home Depot ($5,000), Merck ($2,500), Pfizer ($2,500), PriceWaterhouseCoopers ($1,000), Regions Financial ($4,000), Tysons Food ($5,000), and UPS ($10,000).
Popular Information has contacted all of these companies regarding Tuberville’s recent remarks about white nationalism. None of the companies offered an immediate response.
Tuberville blockade of military nominees Tuberville’s statements defending white nationalists in the military are part of a larger narrative.
In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal entitled “The Pentagon Shouldn’t Wage Culture War,” Tuberville claimed that the “Biden administration has spent the past two years trying to inject politics into the military” and that the military is now filled with “woke appointees.”
The military does not pay for abortions, but Tuberville is upset that the Pentagon announced it “would give U.S. service members up to 21 days of leave for abortions or fertility treatments and reimburse travel and transportation costs incurred while obtaining such treatments.” Since February, Tuberville has been “blocking the promotions of generals and admirals” across the military in protest.
Usually, the Senate confirms “hundreds of military nominations” at once using the unanimous consent process. But because of Tuberville’s hold, the Senate may be forced to go through the nominations and vote one by one, a tedious process that “could take a year to get through.”
In lieu of voting for each nomination individually, Tuberville wants Congress to sponsor “legislation to reverse the Pentagon’s abortion access policy.”
Tuberville’s hold has already stalled “more than 200 general and flag officers,” including theconfirmation of a new leader for the Marine Corps. If he continues to stall, it could affect “more than 600 senior officers” expected to be “up for nomination by the end of the year.”