In an unusual rebuke, the Pentagon and high-ranking members of the U.S. military responded this week to what they called a "divisive" Fox News segment in which host Tucker Carlson took umbrage at changing standards meant to be more inclusive of female service members.
Carlson, who is no stranger to controversy, said on his show Tuesday night that the changes, such as new uniforms for pregnant women, made "a mockery of the U.S. military."
The conservative host's reaction came after President Joe Biden's speech for International Women's Day on Monday, in which he reflected on the military's updated standards, including better-fitting uniforms for women and changing requirements about hairstyles.
The goal, Biden said, was that "all women feel safe and respected in our military."
"So we've got new hairstyles and maternity flight suits," Carlson said on his show Tuesday. "Pregnant women are going to fight our wars. It's a mockery of the U.S. military."
In fact, as some military news outlets noted, maternity flight suits aren't even for combat but rather for "all manner of daily work" as pregnant women can't deploy.
Carlson went on: "While China's military becomes more masculine, as it's assembled the world's largest navy, our military needs to become, as Joe Biden says, more feminine."
"The bottom line is: It's out of control," he continued, "and the Pentagon's going along with this."
A wave of military members quickly responded on social media.
"Women lead our most lethal units with character. They will dominate ANY future battlefield we're called to fight on," tweeted Michael A. Grinston, the sergeant major of the Army.
"[Carlson's] words are divisive, don't reflect our values," Grinston added. "We have THE MOST professional, educated, agile, and strongest NCO Corps in the world."
Major Gen. Patrick Donahoe tweeted a video of himself re-enlisting a woman whom he said was "one of the tens of thousands of women" who serve in the U.S. Army.
Donahoe added that Carlson "couldn't be more wrong."
Others veterans were more direct: "F*ck Tucker Carlson," tweeted Sen. Tammy Duckworth, a former pilot who lost both her legs when her helicopter was shot down in Iraq.
(In November, Carlson mocked Duckworth's patriotism despite her track record of service and derided her as as "moron" for saying she was open to debating the value of removing certain historical monuments.)
The Pentagon officially weighed in Thursday.
Spokesman John Kirby said the Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin shared the same "revulsion" the other U.S. military members had expressed on social media this week.
In response to the criticism, Carlson said on his show Thursday night that the Pentagon was singling him out in an anti-media attack.
"Since when does the Pentagon declare war on a domestic news operation? We can't remember that ever happening. But we're going to pass on that," he said, "because this is bigger than a feud with some flack at the Pentagon."
The Pentagon's spokesman vowed Thursday the U.S. military would become "more inclusive, more respectful of everyone — especially women."
"We pledge to do better, and we will," Kirby added, according to CNN. "What we absolutely won't do is take personnel advice from a talk show host, or the Chinese military. Maybe those folks feel like they have something to prove. That's on them."
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