Military leaders, veterans and veterans groups are slamming Fox News host Tucker Carlson after he attacked the notion of pregnant women serving in the armed forces.
Carlson called women in “maternity flight suits” a mockery of the U.S. military, while also making a transphobic aside in his speech during a Tuesday night broadcast. His segment was in response to President Joe Biden’s acknowledgment that the military has tailored combat uniforms for women during his International Women’s Day remarks.
“While China’s military becomes more masculine as it's assembled the world’s largest navy, our military, as Joe Biden says, needs to become more feminine — whatever feminine means anymore since men and women no longer exist,” Carlson said. “The bottom line is it’s out of control and the Pentagon is going along with it. Again, this is a mockery of the U.S. military and its core mission, which is winning wars.”
The Department of Defense would not be taking personnel advice from “a talk show host or the Chinese military,” Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said in a response to the remarks Thursday.
“Maybe those folks feel like they have something to prove, that's on them,” Kirby said. “We know we’re the greatest military in the world today, and even for all the things we need to improve.”
Kirby added that the military is “better and more effective” when they represent all the American people.
A number of active military members, veterans and veterans groups took issue with Carlson’s remarks, frequently noting that the Fox News host has never served in the military.
“I served with women who risked their lives to protect our country. Tucker did not,” Rep. Mikie Sherrill, D-N.J., a former Navy helicopter pilot, said in a tweet. “While he denigrates those who serve, our military remains the best fighting force due, in large part, to our amazing servicewomen.”
Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Il, an Army veteran who lost her legs during a deployment in Iraq, responded to Carlson with a tweet referencing his brief appearance on "Dancing with the Stars.
"While he was practicing his two-step, America’s female warriors were hunting down Al Qaeda and proving the strength of America’s women," Duckworth said. "Happy belated International Women’s Day to everyone but Tucker, who even I can dance better than."
Duckworth is also notably the first sitting senator to give birth while in office and brought her newborn daughter, Maile, to a 2018 Senate floor vote.
Scott Stalker, a command senior enlisted leader of U.S. Space Command, reduced Carlson’s comments to what he called “drama TV” in a video posted to Twitter on Thursday morning. Stalker said Carlson’s opinion was based on “actually zero days” of service before offering his own, which he said is based on 28 years in the military.
“Those decisions were made by medical professionals, by commanders and our civilian leadership, that allows for women to have more time with their children to recuperate, to get fit and ready,” Stalker said.
“To take that time that’s necessary that our medical professionals know is needed, which actually makes us a more lethal, ready and fit force," he said. "The bottom line is that we value women in our armed forces.”
Carlson on his show Thursday night said that his critics were trying to "silence dissent" and that one does not need to have served to question the military or its policies. He accused the Pentagon of "a large and coordinated public relations offensive against this show."
"The DoD even issued a news release attacking us — Press secretary smites Fox News host," Carlson said. "Smites, like we're a hostile foreign power."
The piece in question, titled "Press Secretary Smites Fox Host That Dissed Diversity in U.S. Military" was not a press release but was an article on the news section of the Department of Defense's web site, bylined by a reporter employed by the department and which contained Kirby's remarks.
Fox News did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.