Mattis backs service chiefs on Charlottesville: 'On the battlefield we are one team'

Mattis backs service chiefs on Charlottesville: 'On the battlefield we are one team'
© Keren Carrion

Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisOvernight Defense: Tillerson, Trump deny report of rift | Tillerson says he never considered resigning | Trump expresses 'total confidence' in secretary | Rubio asks Army to kick out West Point grad Rubio asks Army to kick out West Point grad with pro-communist posts Trump, honor Obama’s agreement to release Guantanamo detainee MORE on Thursday stood shoulder to shoulder with the U.S. military service chiefs in affirming racism has no place in the Pentagon, following this weekend’s deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va.

Mattis, who spoke to media at the State Department following a meeting with Japanese national security officials, said that the service chiefs were “simply emphasizing on the battlefield we are one team and that’s the way we stay.”

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.

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“These are leaders of our diverse armed forces, they simply said the same message that we have lived by for decades,” Mattis said, standing alongside Secretary of State Rex TillersonRex Wayne TillersonTrump relationship with Tillerson has been tense for months: report Bill O'Reilly: With Trump, Tillerson coverage, the media takes us all for 'morons' Overnight Defense: Tillerson, Trump deny report of rift | Tillerson says he never considered resigning | Trump expresses 'total confidence' in secretary | Rubio asks Army to kick out West Point grad MORE. “We continue not to serve in the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, the Marine Corps, we serve in the United States Army, United States Navy, etc. In that regard it’s a widely diverse force.”

Mattis also pointed to the Latin statement printed on U.S. coins to make his point: “E Pluribus Unum,” meaning “out of many, one.”

Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford also said Thursday that “absolutely and unambiguously ... there is no place — no place — for racism and bigotry in the U.S. military or in the United States as a whole.”

White supremacists, neo-Nazis and other far-right demonstrators protested the removal of a Confederate statue in Charlottesville, Va., over the weekend during a rally that turned violent and resulted in the death of a counterprotester and left at least 19 others injured. 

Lawmakers and civil rights groups have criticized President Trump for defiantly insisting that “both sides” were to blame for the weekend’s violence and that there were “very fine people” among those protesting the statue's removal.

Mattis's comments come hours after Trump wrote on Twitter that is was “sad” that Confederate statues and monuments were being removed across the country.