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In Kaitlan Collins’ CNN prime time debut, Tuberville defends military holds, comments on white nationalists

U.S. Sen. Tommy Tuberville defended on CNN Monday night his months-long hold on military promotions, his protest over a Pentagon policy that gives service members time and travel reimbursement to go out of state for abortions.

Tuberville appeared on the first episode of Prattville-native Kaitlan Collins’ prime time show, The Source. Later in the conversation, Tuberville was given the chance to explain his previous comments about white nationalists in the military.

“The only power we have is to put a hold on something,” Tuberville said about the hundreds of military promotions he’s delayed. “And so we thought that this would get the attention of (Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin). I told him back in December, now, if you do this, I’m going to put a hold on all your admirals and generals. I didn’t hear from him for two months. He put the order through just through a memo, instead of a law. He changed it. That’s unlawful.

“To make it law, you have got to go through Congress. And we’re trying to teach them that you cannot legislate from the Pentagon.”

Alabama’s senior senator has been blocking the nominations to pressure the Defense Department to rescind a policy that reimburses service members who have to travel out of state for abortions. Alabama is among the states where abortion is now mostly illegal.

He also said he’s not stopping individual promotions, which would be a much more time consuming process. Nominations are usually approved en masse, which is what he’s blocking.

He argued he’s not hurting military readiness or recruiting.

“Taxpayers, 60 percent of the people in this country, Democrats and Republicans and independents, say they do not want taxpayer money to go towards anything to do with an abortion,” he said. “And so that’s all I’m trying to do. I’m trying to get the attention of this Department of Defense and the White House, saying, listen to the people.”

Collins questioned Tuberville about a letter signed by seven former U.S. defense secretaries that said his actions are harming military readiness and risking national security.

“Are you saying that you know better than those seven former defense secretaries?,” she asked.

“Well, first of all, those secretary of defenses were nominees,” he said. “They weren’t elected. I was elected to represent the people of Alabama in this country.

“Number two, if they want to confirm a general or admiral, we can do it tomorrow, OK? I’m not stopping all of them. I mean, if there’s some that they want out there — General Brown, who’s going to be the new head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he will go through by itself. He’s going to go through confirmation tomorrow, and we will vote on him by itself.”

Collins later asked Tuberville about previous comments he made about white nationalists in the military, prompting him to again say a white nationalist “is an American.”

“Now, if that white nationalist is a racist, I’m totally against anything that they want to do, because I am 110 percent against racism,” he said. “But I want somebody that’s in our military that’s strong, that believes in this country, that’s an American, that will fight along anybody, whether it’s a man or woman, black or white, red. It doesn’t make any difference.”

He went on to say Democrats are using “identity politics” to divide the country.

“You said a white nationalist is an American, but a white nationalist is someone who believes horrific things,” Collins countered, saying white nationalist were by definition racist.

“If people think a white nationalist is a racist, I would agree,” Tuberville said. 

“It’s not — it’s not — it’s not people who are white. It’s white nationalists, Collins said. “You see the distinction, right?”

“Now, if racism is one of those beliefs, I’m totally against it. I am totally against racism. But there’s a lot of people that believe in different things,” Tuberville said.

“But that is a white — a white nationalist is racist, Senator,” Collins said.

“Well, that’s your opinion. That’s your opinion,” Tuberville said.

“It’s not an opinion,” Collins said.

“But if it’s racism, if it’s racism, I’m totally against it. I am totally against any type of race — any type of racism. I don’t care what it’s in,” Tuberville concluded.

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