(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Michael Ginsberg Congressional Correspondent
Font Size:

“Press Secretary Smites Fox Host That Dissed Diversity in U.S. Military,” a Department of Defense headline read Thursday.

“I want to be very clear right up front, that the diversity of our military is one of our greatest strengths,” Pentagon press secretary and former CNN commentator John Kirby said during a Thursday briefing. “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.”

Kirby was responding to comments made by Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who said during his March 9 show that Biden’s Department of Defense is more focused on woke adventurism than winning wars.

Carlson noted that the Department of Defense is creating body armor and flight suits for pregnant women, and is planning to change female hairstyle requirements. He also railed against the Chief of Naval Operations’ addition of the book “How To Be Antiracist,” by American University professor Ibram X. Kendi, to the Navy’s official reading list. Columbia University professor John McWhorter described Kendi’s arguments as “facile and subjective.”

“I can’t for the life of me understand why [Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Mike Gilday] would defend having this book on his reading list,” Republican Indiana Rep. Jim Banks told Carlson, promising to ask Gilday about the assignment during a congressional hearing.

The American military must have “the moral courage to include other perspectives and ideas into our decision making—perspectives that as the secretary himself noted Monday, are based on lived experience,” Kirby continued. “It’s that experience and the professionalism and commitment of our people that has always been our decisive advantage.”

Kirby was responding to a segment on Carlson’s Tuesday night program, in which the host contrasted the United States’ approach to gender issues with China’s.


Carlson offered criticism of an announcement from Biden that the military was preparing new body armor and flight suits for pregnant women, as well as updating hairstyle requirements. “It is going to take an intensity of purpose and mission to really change the culture and habits that cause women to leave the military,” Biden said.

“While China’s military becomes more masculine as it assembles the world’s largest Navy, our military needs to become more feminine, whatever feminine means anymore because men and women no longer exist,” Carlson said. (RELATED: ‘Where Does This End?’: Tucker Carlson Says US Military Focused On ‘White Fragility’ And Racism, Not Security)

“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. 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,” Kirby added.

A series of classified war games conducted by the Defense Department, most recently in 2020, found that the Chinese military consistently won in confrontations with the United States. “The trend in our war games was not just that we were losing, but we were losing faster,” Air Force Lt. Gen. S. Clinton Hinote told Yahoo News.

Carlson promised a response on his Thursday night show.

Democratic Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth, a double-amputee combat veteran, also criticized Carlson’s remarks. “Happy belated International Women’s Day to everyone but Tucker, who even I can dance better than,” Duckworth tweeted.

Other top military officials echoed Kirby’s remarks.

“His opinion, which he has a right to, is based off of actually zero days of service in the armed forces,” Master Gunnery Sergeant Scott H. Stalker, the Command Senior Enlisted Leader of US Space Command, said. “Let me tell you where he’s wrong. Those decisions were made by medical professionals, by commanders, and by our civilian leadership. It allows women to have more time with their children, to recuperate, to get fit and ready, to take that time necessary that our medical professionals know is need, and actually makes us a more lethal, ready, and fit force.”

The Department of Defense tweeted a video commemorating the service of women in the military, describing their actions as “history in the making.”

Major General John R. Evans, the commander of the Army’s Reserve Officer Training Corps program, tweeted that “female soldiers have excelled in every component and every branch.”

The US Army’s official account sent nine tweets comprising the soldier’s creed alongside various photos of women serving.

Acting Under-Secretary of the Army Christopher H. Lowman tweeted that women “contribute, sacrifice, and make us the world’s premier fighting force.”

The series was retweeted by CNN anchor Jake Tapper.

Four star Army General Paul Funk tagged Carlson in a tweet with a graphic of female soldiers, saying he would “be lucky to meet them.”

Sergeant Major of the Army Michael Grinston claimed that “women lead our most lethal units with character.”

Vox reporter Aaron Rupar uncritically shared Kirby’s comments.

CNN host Brianna Keilar said that Carlson should not talk about female soldiers, because he “has not served a day in uniform.” Keilar has not served in the military either.

MSNBC commentator and Bulwark editor Bill Kristol tweeted that Carlson’s comments “denigrate[d] Americans serving our country.

A CNN article called the Defense Department’s criticisms of Carlson “an extraordinary rebuke.” It referred to Carlson as “the face of Fox,” and called his segment sexist for “mock[ing] women serving in the armed forces.”

The New York Daily News claimed that Carlson “went on a rant about women who serve their country.”

The Military Times wrote that “traditional military culture subjugates and disenfranchises women,” and Carlson was “seiz[ing] the moment… to drop some hot takes.”

Reuters claimed that the segment “decried increasing numbers of female service members and suggested they were weakening the U.S. armed forces.”

Carlson is a co-founder of the Daily Caller, but he sold his stock in the company in 2020.