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: Erdoğan gets earful from GOP senators | Amazon to challenge Pentagon cloud contract decision in court | Lawmakers under pressure to pass benefits fix for military families Amazon to challenge Pentagon's 'war cloud' decision in federal court Former Mattis staffer: Trump 'shooting himself in the foot' on foreign policy 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 TillersonNikki Haley fires the first shot in the GOP's post-Trump war State Dept. watchdog: Official's firing was case of political retaliation Steve Schmidt: 'Overwhelming chance that Trump will dump Pence' for Haley 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.