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 MattisThe Hill's 12:30 Report Air Force chief not aware of cohesion, morale issues due to transgender troops The Hill's Morning Report: Koch Network re-evaluating midterm strategy amid frustrations with GOP 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 TillersonRand's reversal advances Pompeo Frequent Trump critics NY Daily News, USA Today editorial boards back Pompeo Sarah Sanders: Dems have to decide if they love the US more than they hate Trump 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.