Why it matters that so many military leaders are denouncing Tucker Carlson's misogynistic comments

Hopefully, their support will drown out the cable news host's rhetoric and let female service members know that they are seen and valued.

military leaders Tucker Carlson
Air Force Capt. Beatrice Horne serves with the 964th Airborne Air Control Squadron. (DoD)

When Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson made misogynistic comments about service members this week, it ignited a conversation online about women, their service, and the importance of military leaders speaking out against hateful rhetoric.

On Tuesday, Carlson shared his opinion that pregnant women in uniform make a "mockery of the U.S. military."

We wholeheartedly disagree. And so do a number of active military members, veterans, and legislators.

In a news briefing on Wednesday morning, Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby condemned the remarks.

"I want to be very clear right up front, that the diversity of our military is one of our greatest strengths," he said. "I've seen it for myself in long months at sea and in the combat waged by our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. I've seen it up on Capitol Hill just this past month. And I see it every day here right at the Pentagon."

"What we absolutely won't do is take personnel advice from a talk show host or the Chinese military," Kirby added. "Maybe those folks feel like they have something to prove — that's on them. We know we're the greatest military in the world today and even for all the things we need to improve, we know exactly why that's so."

Why did the Pentagon feel the need to offer such a strong statement?

Because it was necessary.

Because ignoring the cable host's rhetoric might arguably send the message that leaders agree with him.

When a senior Army leader tweeted in jest about not commenting on "click bait news pundits," one Soldier responded, pleading with him to stand up for her.

"See here's the thing: I need you to tweet about what Tucker Carlson said. You and every other Army male senior leader. I need you to refute him, by name," wrote the woman under the Twitter handle @LethalityJane.

"Because there are people in our formation and government who agree with him. Because this show gets played in DFACs."

DFAC is an acronym for dining facilities. The cable show is also played in gyms and offices across military installations worldwide.

"I have given over a decade of my life to this organization. So when a major news network anchor in a prime time slot on a show that gets played in places where I work and eat and go to the gym says this, I need the reassurance that you have my back," she continued.

"This isn't like amplifying trolls. Tucker Carlson is a mainstream voice in the American media. And he is saying that my existence, the existence of other female soldiers, and the modest efforts you are putting forth to improve our lives is a joke, a mockery."

"I need Army leaders to have my back on this one. And that doesn't mean ignoring it. It means calling him and his ignorance out, by name. It means standing up for us. Please."

She's absolutely right. Senior military leaders need to speak out against ignorant comments like these. They need to stand up for their service members—all of them.

In the wake of Carlson's comments, many leaders have refuted his opinion, including U.S. Marine Corps Master Gunnery Sergeant Scott Stalker, the Senior Enlisted Leader of United States Space Command.

In a clip that's gone viral, Master Gunnery Sgt. Stalker dismissed Carlson's opinion as "drama TV" and said, "let's remember those opinions were made by an individual who has never served a day in his life."

Sergeant Major of the Army Michael Grinston appeared on CNN to rebuke Carlson's comments, too.

"We have the most lethal army in the world and that is because of our people--all of our people," he said. "So, I am extremely proud of all the women I have served within combat, that have been my commander in units across my 32-year career. So, I am extremely proud of all those women and I don't think those comments need to divide us as a military because we have the greatest military in the world."

In response to the Sergeant Major's comments, @LethalityJane tweeted, "This was pretty cool to see. I've seen a lot of casual sexism during my time in the Army, and a lot of people who tell me to 'stop being so hysterical' or 'stop whining' when I point it out. It's refreshing to have senior leaders call it out for what it is."

"I haven't always had a sense of belonging in the Army," she added. "But when a leader stands up for you, it really does go a long way to make you feel like part of the team. So today, for once, it feels like maybe 'This is my squad' means me, too."

It matters.

It matters when leaders denounce hateful rhetoric.

It's about more than PR or simply saying the right thing.

It's about modeling leadership through action.

We ask so much of our military. We ask servicemembers to dedicate their careers and talents to their nation. We ask them to train 7 days a week, 365 days a year, to protect freedom. We ask that they be willing to lay down their lives, if necessary.

Female service members shouldn't have to ask their leadership to defend their existence within the military.

We're grateful to every service member, veteran, legislator, and citizen who contributed to the conversation this week, decrying Carlson's misogynistic comments.

Hopefully, their support will drown out his rhetoric and let female service members know that they are seen, supported, safe and valued.

“I signed up to serve my country at 18. @TuckerCarlson did not. I served with women who risked their lives to protect our country. Tucker did not. While he denigrates those who serve, our military remains the best fighting force due, in large part, to our amazing servicewomen.”
“Contrary to what you may be hearing this 🇺🇸WOMAN & 1000's of 🇺🇸WOMEN like her are NOT "making a mockery of our military". You WISH your daughter was as AWESOME as MINE! so BACK OFF. #ARMY #Navy #USMC #USAF @16thSMA”
“Hey @TuckerCarlson, this is my Squad and they’re @USArmy Strong. You’d be lucky to meet them. #VictoryStartsHere”
“Women lead our most lethal units with character. They will dominate ANY future battlefield we’re called to fight on. @TuckerCarlson’s words are divisive, don’t reflect our values. We have THE MOST professional, educated, agile, and strongest NCO Corps in the world. https://t.co/WeqWk6IWDq”
“This Aussie aviatrix was lucky enough to fly with the USAF. Does that count as “feminizing” two militaries at the same time? 🤔”
“I will unflinchingly go to war any day with these Combat Medics. #WomansHistoryMonth @PaulFunk2 @TRADOCCSM @TradocDCG @16thSMA”
“@pjellis88 @TuckerCarlson Here is a pic of my Army wife & I after a 5K near Ft Hood. I am the top overall male finisher, she is the top overall female finisher. She was also the overall top finisher & beat me by over a minute and a half. Side note: she was 12 weeks pregnant with our daughter. #soHooah”
“Our All-Volunteer Military depends on America’s daughters and sons willingness to serve and, if necessary, to put themselves in harm’s way for their fellow citizens. Think about that if anyone ever questions our fabric as either a profession or as a nation. #MakeItMatter”
“For over 30 years I have been an Army Civilian and during that time I have served with men and women in uniform. There is no difference, women serve in every type of Army unit, they show up every day to protect and defend the Nation. https://t.co/ZH8ctMt6gb”
“Gen. James McConville, asked about Tucker Carlson's comments about the "feminization" of the military, says that he is proud of the 185,000 women serving in the Army. “I just think it’s insulting to those women to have a comment like that."”
“I’ve had 2 children while serving in the Army, deployed to 2 combat zones, advised commanders at home & in war, and graduated from the Naval War College. I can assure you, my presence does not make a mockery of the military. If you’re looking for a mockery, look in the mirror.”
“During one of the worst days in my life in Afghanistan the person next to me protecting me and probably saving my life wasn't Tucker Carlson. It was a 19 year old woman from California.”
“This is me, yesterday, conducting a re-enlistment for one of the tens of thousands of women who serve in our Army. Just a reminder that @TuckerCarlson couldnt be more wrong. https://t.co/M1MHe5zHrf”
“Every day women don a bomb suit designed for men, train and save lives. Proud that in April we’ll test the first suits designed for women! Will this make us more feminine? I sure hope so, because that makes us more lethal! More feminine is not less lethal!!”
“I'll never forget the day in 2005 when @TuckerCarlson took control of a firefight near Baghdad, directing his team's MK19s toward the ambush before dismounting and killing 3 enemies at close range with his M4 Oh wait, that was 23 y/o Silver Star recipient Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester”
“Hey @TuckerCarlson , I have served this great nation for over 30 years, assisting, protecting, and defending in both peace and war, rising to the rank of CSM. I did this while being a mother to two amazing girls. I can assure you I, nor any of my sisters in arms, are no mockery”

Tammy Duckworth on Twitter

Tammy Duckworth on Twitter

twitter.com

“Tucker never learns. This wasn't the first and probably won't be the last time he goes after women who sacrifice in uniform so he doesn't have to. But no matter how many times he insults our Armed Forces, I won't be silent. https://t.co/BPjuo6SCzs”
Jamie Orsini is an Emmy Award-winning journalist, military spouse, and a mom to two busy toddlers. In her spare time, Jamie volunteers with the Solar System Ambassador program with NASA/JPL and reads anything she can get her hands on. She’s currently working on her first novel.