The Army secretary on Friday urged military leaders to “stand up for women” amid a controversy involving a conservative talk show host and an outspoken retiring major general.
The comments were the latest in a back-and-forth between military leaders and conservative hosts and lawmakers that began last year when Fox News host Tucker Carlson accused the U.S. military of becoming “more feminine” as China’s military “becomes more masculine.”
After news surfaced last month that Maj. Gen. Patrick Donahoe had come under scrutiny for directly calling out Carlson, Army Secretary Christine Wormuth this week told an audience at an Army conference that leaders need to stay out of politics and “out of the culture wars.”
“Because frankly, we have got to be able to have a broad appeal. When only 9 percent of kids are interested in serving, we have got to make sure that we are careful about not alienating wide swaths of the American public to the Army.”
She attempted to clarify her position on Twitter Friday.
“There has been confusion on an issue where there should be none. So let me be clear: I expect @USArmy leaders to stand up for women—and all Soldiers—who are unduly attacked or disrespected,” she tweeted.
In a second tweet, Wormuth added to her statement with this instruction: “Use good judgment online. Keep it professional.”
At the time of Carlson’s initial attacks on the Pentagon, military leaders — including Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and then-Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby — objected to Carlson’s comments. Several other military leaders sent messages in support of women in the services without naming Carlson.
Last month, the Army Times reported that Donahoe’s retirement had been put on hold over his comments on social media and that he may be punished. The website Task & Purpose then reported that the Army had determined Donahoe’s actions had brought “negative publicity” to the service through his actions.
In the investigation report, officials noted that improper social media usage occurred during the Twitter engagements. They also wrote that although they understood Donahoe’s position in defending women, the national media coverage from conservative outlets criticizing the Army was too unsavory.
“While potentially admirable,” the inspector general report wrote, referencing the initial rebuke against Carlson, “his post brought a measurable amount of negative publicity to the Army, enough that [the Office of the Chief of Public Affairs] warned [the Secretary of the Army] of the fallout,” according to the document obtained by Task & Purpose.
While the investigation was being conducted, the major general was “temporarily assigned as a special assistant to the Commanding General of the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command,” Army spokesperson Cynthia Smith told the Army Times.
Following a column in The Washington Post about the investigation, retired Col. Yevgeny Vindman, who came to prominence alongside his brother, Alexander, during former President Donald Trump’s first impeachment, defended Donahoe and warned of the culture war that the Army has struggled to navigate in the age of social media.
“Unfortunately, it’s working. The Army just ended the career of MG Donahoe, the ‘Woke’ general because he stood up to Fox/ Tucky,” Vindman tweeted. The Pentagon and the Army, he added, “are lost. They fear the right. They are losing their moral compass and service-members will vote with their feet.”