Chief of Naval Operations Michael Gilday refused to condemn the conspiracy theory that white people created AIDS during a testy exchange with Republican Indiana Rep. Jim Banks over critical race theory (CRT) in the military.
“Do you personally consider the conspiracy theory that white people started AIDS to be an extremist belief?” Banks asked Gilday. The question referenced a college newspaper column written by Ibram X. Kendi, who later went on to write a book on antiracism.
Banks submitted a letter to Gilday in February demanding that the Navy explain why the book was included on its reading list. He is one of many Republicans who have frequently criticized the U.S. military’s inclusion of books that promote concepts like CRT. (RELATED: ‘Ideological Poison’: Tom Cotton Slams Military’s Promotion Of Critical Race Theory)
“I’d have to understand the context in which these statements are made,” Gilday responded. “I’m not going to sit here and defend cherry-picked quotes from somebody’s book. I’m not going to do that.”
“That is a simple question. Admiral, this is a book that you recommended every sailor in the U.S. Navy read,” Banks interjected.
Gilday then pivoted to a series of left-wing talking points about racism in America.
“This is a bigger issue than Kendi’s book. What this is really about is painting the U.S. military, in this case, the U.S. Navy, as weak, as woke, and we’ve had sailors that spent 341 days at sea last year with minimal port visits,” Gilday said.
“Our strength is in our diversity, and our sailors understand that,” he added. “Racism in the U.S. is a very complex issue. What we benefit from is an open discussion about those issues. That we don’t try to ignore and rewrite it, but we actually have a discussion about it and there will be various views and I trust sailors will come to an understanding of hopefully separating from fact from fiction.”
Gilday also refused to condemn Kendi’s assertion that Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett is a colonizer for adopting children from Haiti, and another in which Kendi said capitalism is inherently racist.
The Trump administration banned the use of CRT in training and reading literature provided by federal agencies and contractors via executive order. President Joe Biden lifted the order on his first day in office.
In response, some Republicans, like Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton and Utah Rep. Burgess Owens, have introduced legislation that would prohibit the use of Critical Race Theory and other similar concepts at the federal level.