Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) received bipartisan condemnation and staunch criticism on Tuesday after refusing to denounce white supremacism as a racist ideology earlier this week. Now he’s reversing course.
During a CNN interview with newly-minted anchor Kaitlan Collins, Tuberville was asked whether he believes white nationalists should be able to serve in the U.S. military — a question rooted in comments the senator made earlier this year downplaying the racist ideology. In response, the Alabama Republican repeatedly insisted that white nationalism is not a form of racism and that stating otherwise is simply “some people’s opinion.”
His comments sparked outrage in the halls of the Senate, forcing his Republican colleagues to publicly argue that white nationalists don’t belong in the military.
“White supremacy is simply unacceptable in the military and in our whole country,” Senate Minority Leader Mith McConnell (R-KY) said, referring to Tuberville’s remarks.
Sen. John Thune (R-SD) added there’s no room for white nationalists in the GOP or the military.
“I just think there isn’t any place for it. We are a country obviously that has built around a set of principles, that’s welcoming,” Thune said.
But the South Dakota senator avoided commenting on Tuberville’s argument that white nationalists aren’t necessarily racist.
“That’s not for me to decide,” he said.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) also chimed in, saying, “ethnic nationalism is un-American and I think it would be problematic in the military.”
“My definition of a white nationalist is someone that believes that America belongs to white people. That’s not American, that’s un-American, and that would be a problem in the military,” he added.
The other Republican from Alabama, Sen. Katie Britt (R-AL), also called out Tuberville without naming her colleague explicitly, telling a Huffpost reporter, “White supremacy and racism have absolutely no place in our country. Period. The end.”
As the criticism mounted and the senator got hounded by reporters asking him to justify his comments, Tuberville seemed to backtrack, finally acknowledging that “white nationalists are racists.”