Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) hammered Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to answer if the American military is a "fundamentally racist organization" at a Defense funding hearing on Thursday.
COTTON: Again, this is just a few examples. One marine told us that a military history training session was replaced with mandatory training on police brutality, white privilege, and systemic racism. He reported that several officers are now leaving his unit, citing that training.
Another servicemember told us that their unit was required to read White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo, which claims--and this is a quote--white people raised in Western society are conditioned into a white supremacist worldview.
A member of the Special Operations community has told us that they are being instructed that, quote the U.S. Special Operations community is racist. One Army officer relayed to us the words of his general officer who told him that the entire U.S. Army is racist.
A midshipman at the Naval Academy said classmates are calling America a fundamentally racist place, and that this sentiment is not contested by school administrators. An airman told us their unit was forced into a racist exercise called a privilege walk, where members of the wing were ordered to separate themselves by race and gender, in order to stratify people based on their perceived privilege.
One African-American officer disparagingly said, and I quote, the Navy thinks my only value is as a black woman, and not the fact that she is a highly-trained military specialist. Soldiers have come forward to tell us they are being forced to watch videos about systemic racism and documentaries that rewrite America's history as a fundamentally racist and evil nation.
One Space Force officer told me that two guardians left his ranks in a short period of time. One was a young African-American who said that after the training, she would never have joined the military had she known that it was such a hotbed of racism. The other was a white airman who said he didn't sign up to be indoctrinated, and filed separation paperwork.
Mr. Secretary, we're hearing reports of plummeting morale, growing mistrust between the races and sexes, where none existed just six months ago, and unexpected retirements and separations based on these trainings alone. And again, these are not my words. These are the words of your own troops.
So I would ask a few simple but vital questions. Mr. Secretary, do you believe that our military is a fundamentally racist organization? Yes or no, please.
AUSTIN: Well, I won't give you a yes or no answer on that, senator, because it deserves more than a yes or no. The military, like any organization, will have its challenges, but I do not believe it is a fundamentally racist organization.
COTTON: Thank you.
AUSTIN: We will--
COTTON: I'm sorry to cut you off, but our time is limited. I think it is a pretty simple question. I'm glad that you agree it is not fundamentally racist. Do you believe that any member of the military should be treated differently based on their skin color and sex? Again, yes or no will do.
AUSTIN: Again, this question deserves more than a yes or no answer. It is--
COTTON: Mr. Secretary, I'm sorry to cut you off; our time is limited. It is a very simple question. Should a member of the organization you lead be treated differently, in violation of the Constitution I would add, based on their sex or the color of their skin?
AUSTIN: No, I do not believe that, and that is the--that is why we have diversity, equity, and inclusion focus in the military.
COTTON: It's--and the military for decades has been one of the institutions in this society where you are most likely to get ahead based on your own performance, on your own merit, irrespective of the color of your skin or where you came from or who your parents were.
AUSTIN: Sir, I absolutely agree with that and I am--I am an example of that.
COTTON: --Your distinguished career--
AUSTIN: --But, I would also--I would also say that--
COTTON: --Mr. Secretary--Mr. Secretary, your career is an excellent example of that, but I have more questions based on the reports we've seen. The military has included the works of critical race theories on its reading list by authors like Ibram Henry Rogers, who now calls himself Ibram Kendi and Robin DiAngelo.
Mr. Kendi has written, "the only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination. The only remedy to present discrimination is future discrimination." Do you agree with that proposition?
AUSTIN: I've not read that and I don't--you know, I certainly don't agree with what you just said, but I--
COTTON: --Okay, Mr. Secretary--
AUSTIN: --It's always important to have the full context of anything that's--that you're being asked to evaluate.
COTTON: Mr. Secretary, do you believe that race and sex should be the key factor when selecting combat leaders rather than, say, operational excellence, technical proficiency, leadership, agility, and integrity?
AUSTIN: I do not, senator. I think what you just said should be key components in making any selection.