Top general: 'No place for racism and bigotry' in military

Top general: 'No place for racism and bigotry' in military
© Francis Rivera

The highest officer in the U.S. military on Thursday said there is no place for racism in the military or in America, endorsing the service chiefs’ comments in the wake of the racially motivated violence in Charlottesville, Va., over the weekend.

"I can absolutely and unambiguously tell you there is no place — no place — for racism and bigotry in the U.S. military or in the United States as a whole,” Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters traveling with him in China, as quoted by the Pentagon’s news service.

Dunford’s comments come after the chiefs of the Air Force, Marines, Navy, Army and National Guard — all members of the Joint Chiefs — denounced racism in tweets over the last few days.

Dunford said the tweets were important to send a message to both the military and the American people.

"They were speaking directly to the force and to the American people: to the force to make clear that that kind of racism and bigotry is not going to stand inside the force. And to the American people, to remind them of the values for which we stand in the U.S. military, which are reflective of the values of the United States," he said.

Dunford also acknowledged he was late to comment, but said it was only because he has been traveling and "not really decisively following the developments over the weekend."

Violence erupted Saturday in Charlottesville during a rally of white supremacists, neo-Nazis and other far-right demonstrators protesting the removal of a Confederate statue. One counterprotester was killed and at least 19 were injured when a car sped into a crowd of anti-racist protesters.

The man accused of driving the car, James Alex Fields Jr., joined the Army in August 2015 but left four months later after failing to pass basic training. He also allegedly has connections to white supremacist groups.

A leader of one of the white supremacist groups at the rally, Vanguard America, was also reported to be a former Marines recruiter.

President Trump has come under intense criticism for defiantly insisting that “both sides” were to blame for the weekend’s violence.

On Monday, in prepared remarks, Trump condemned by name groups such as the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis and said “racism is evil,” appearing to correct course after panned remarks over the weekend where he blamed “many sides” for the violence.

But a day later, during an impromptu press conference, Trump insisted there is “blame on both sides” and said there were “very fine people” among those protesting the statue removal.