Some Republicans are closing ranks to defend Tucker Carlson after a wave of senior military leaders rebuked the Fox News host for comments claiming that maternity uniforms for women and updated hair regulations are "a mockery of the U.S. military."
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, on Sunday penned a letter to the Pentagon, slamming the military for "being mobilized against the speech of American citizens or in the service of left wing political causes."
"This kind of behavior, while perhaps typical in a military-controlled third world country, is completely unacceptable in the United States of America," Cruz wrote to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.
Cruz, who often gets heavily involved with inflammatory culture issues, requested a meeting with the commandant of the Marine Corps after an official service Twitter account -- II MEF Information Group -- tweeted an image of a female Marine conducting physical training and wrote, "What it looks like in today's armed forces @Tucker Carlson. Get right before you get left, boomer."
In another tweet responding to someone criticizing the Marines, the II MEF Group responded, "Come back when you've served and been pregnant."
Both tweets were deleted, and the account issued an apology.
Cruz doesn't serve on the Senate Armed Services Committee and has virtually no role in military oversight or any background in the armed forces himself. While it is common for multiple co-signers to endorse communications from lawmakers to high-profile officials, Cruz's letter had no clear support from the Republican Party, with no other senators signing it with him.
But on Monday, Rep. Ronny Jackson, R-Texas, suggested that female troops serving is a virtue signaling crusade from the Defense Department, despite the fact that women have served in all American conflicts.
"Tucker Carlson is right! The U.S. military does not exist to serve as a social experiment for the far left. It exists to defend us from our enemies, not to be used as a political weapon for enemies of the Biden administration," Jackson, who serves on the House Armed Services Committee, tweeted.
The term "social experiment" has long been a phrase used by critics of cultural progress in the military, including the integration of Black service members and repealing the "don't ask, don't tell" policy.
A spokesperson for Jackson's office said the congressman was highlighting concerns over DoD officials calling out a civilian and didn't mean to come across as attacking women.
"Congressman Jackson believes that identity politics, virtue signaling, and Twitter drama waged by U.S. military officials with official resources are a distraction from that mission, and that the Biden administration's decision to weaponize the nonpartisan DoD for this purpose is wildly inappropriate," the spokesperson said.
A Pentagon inspector general report earlier this month found that while Jackson served as the White House's top physician during the Trump administration as a Navy rear admiral, he sexually harassed colleagues, "bullied" subordinates and abused alcohol and Ambien on the job. His alleged behavior tanked his nomination to be President Donald Trump's Department of Veterans Affairs secretary in 2018.
Last week, Carlson complained, "Pregnant women are going to fight our wars. While China's military becomes more masculine as it has assembled the world's largest navy, our military needs to become -- as Joe Biden says -- more feminine."
Carlson, who has no background in military service, made the comments the day after President Joe Biden announced the nomination of two female generals for promotion to four-star commands. Their promotions were delayed in the previous administration over fears that any nominations other than white men would trigger an objection from Trump, according to reporting from The New York Times.
Biden said the military is executing "relatively straightforward work" to make it a better environment for women, including "designing body armor that fits women properly, tailoring combat uniforms for women, creating maternity flight suits [and] updating requirements for their hairstyles."
However, the move to recruit and retain women is not new to Biden's administration. The Air Force started to look at maternity flight suits to better fit pregnant women during the Trump administration. Updated Army hair regulations were also finalized during the Trump administration, and the quest for better fitting body armor for women has been ongoing for years.
The president has no direct role in managing military uniforms or grooming regulations.
Carlson's comments came during a critical time as the services try to address a pervasive sexual harassment and assault problem within the ranks and senior leaders have been lambasted for ignoring the concerns of female troops.
Sergeant Major of the Army Michael Grinston, the Army's top enlisted leader said, "[Women] lead our most lethal units with character. They will dominate any future battlefield we're called to fight on. Tucker Carlson's words are divisive, don't reflect our values."
In a video he tweeted, Master Gunnery Sgt. Scott Stalker, the top enlisted leader at U.S. Space Command, blasted "drama TV," urging troops to "get back to work" and "remember that those opinions were made by an individual who has never served a day in his life."
Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., a former National Guard pilot who lost both legs after her helicopter was downed, also slammed Carlson after his disparaging comments.
"F--- Tucker Carlson," Duckworth tweeted Thursday. "While he was practicing his two-step, America's female warriors were hunting down Al Qaeda and proving the strength of America's women."
-- Steve Beynon can be reached at Steve.Beynon@military.com. Follow him on Twitter @StevenBeynon.