Senior military leaders are voicing support for women in the military after Fox News host Tucker CarlsonTucker CarlsonDemocrat says Tucker Carlson viewers telling his office US should side with Russia The Hill's 12:30 Report: More of Biden's agenda teeters on collapse The Hill's Morning Report: Biden takes it on the chin MORE complained on his show about recent changes meant to attract and retain more female service members.
“Women lead our most lethal units with character,” tweeted Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael Grinston, the service’s top enlisted leader. “They will dominate ANY future battlefield we’re called to fight on. @TuckerCarlson’s words are divisive, don’t reflect our values. We have THE MOST professional, educated, agile, and strongest [noncommissioned officer] Corps in the world.”
On Monday, President BidenJoe BidenFox News reporter says Biden called him after 'son of a b----' remark Peloton responds after another TV character has a heart attack on one of its bikes Defense & National Security — Pentagon puts 8,500 troops on high alert MORE marked International Women’s Day by touting the recent promotion of two female generals. In his speech, Biden also touched on efforts in recent years to better accommodate women in the military, including work to design maternity flight suits and updating grooming standards to allow for a wider range of hairstyles.
The next night, Carlson railed against those efforts.
"So we've got new hairstyles and maternity flight suits. Pregnant women are going to fight our wars. It's a mockery of the U.S. military,” Carlson said.
“While China’s military becomes more masculine as it has assembled the world’s largest navy, our military needs to become as Joe Biden says more feminine, whatever feminine means anymore,” he continued.
Tucker delivered the monologue next to a picture of an Air Force officer, who was wearing an artificial bump, modeling a flight suit designed for pregnant women.
The changes Carlson focused on were initiated during the Trump administration.
The Air Force has been working on buying maternity flight suits after announcing in 2019 that it would allow pilots to continue flying longer into their pregnancies without a waiver.
Meanwhile, in January, the Army unveiled new grooming standards that had been recommended in December, including allowing longer ponytails and wider braids, cornrows or twists. While grooming regulations are meant to reinforce uniformity, many women of color have complained that the strict rules don’t allow for braids or other hairstyles that are easier for those with different textures and hair lengths.
Asked about Carlson’s comments Thursday, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby relayed Defense Secretary Lloyd AustinLloyd AustinDefense & National Security — Pentagon puts 8,500 troops on high alert Pentagon puts 8,500 troops on higher alert over Russia-Ukraine tensions Special Operations Command's top general tests positive for COVID-19 MORE’s “revulsion” at the segment.
“What we absolutely won't do is take personnel advice from a talk show host, or the Chinese military, and maybe those folks feel like they have something to prove, that’s on them,” Kirby told reporters.
But Kirby also said the American Forces Network (AFN), which broadcasts to troops deployed overseas, would continue to carry Carlson’s show.
“By instruction we are required to broadcast and make available for men and women and their families overseas the same type of content, news, information and sports content that their fellow citizens can get, so his show is aired on AFN,” Kirby said.
“I would hope that in the reaction he’s seeing, and hopefully in our reaction here today, that he’ll realize the mistake he made and express some regret about the manner in which he essentially demeaned the entire U.S. military, and how we defend and how we serve this country,” he added.
When asked about Carlson’s comments later on Thursday, Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville told reporters he is proud of the 185,000 women who "serve with distinction every day” in the service, adding that “it’s insulting to those women to have a comment like that."
Spokespeople for Fox News did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the backlash to Carlson's segment among military leaders.
Several top Army officers took to Twitter to hit back at Carlson.
“Thousands of women serve honorably every day around the globe,” tweeted Gen. Paul Funk, commanding officer of the Army Training and Doctrine Command. “They are beacons of freedom and they prove Carlson wrong through determination and dedication. We are fortunate they serve with us.”
Funk’s deputy, Lt. Gen. Ted Martin, posted a photo of his daughter in combat fatigues and said “contrary to what you may be hearing this WOMAN & 1000's of WOMEN like her are NOT ‘making a mockery of our military.’ ”
“You WISH your daughter was as AWESOME as MINE! so BACK OFF,” Martin added.
Maj. Gen. Pat Donahoe, commander of Fort Benning and the Army Maneuver Center of Excellence, posted a video of himself conducting a reenlistment ceremony for a female soldier as “a reminder that @TuckerCarlson couldnt be more wrong.”
Command Sgt. Maj. Rocky Carr, the senior enlisted leader at Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command, posted a picture of him and his wife after a 5 kilometer race near Fort Hood and noted she was the overall top finisher.
“Side note: she was 12 weeks pregnant with our daughter. #soHooah,” Carr tweeted.
The Army's official Twitter account also appeared to wade into the controversy Thursday, tweeting several photos of female soldiers alongside messages about their capabilities, though the tweets did not directly address Carlson.
"I am an American Soldier. I stand ready to deploy, engage, and destroy the enemies of the United States of America, in close combat," read one tweet that included a photo of a woman operating an M2 .50-caliber machine gun.
The command senior enlisted leader of U.S. Space Command, Marine Corps Master Gunnery Sgt. Scott Stalker, meanwhile, dismissed Carlson's comments as being "based on zero days of service in the armed forces."
The military's maternity policies, which Stalker stressed were informed by medical professionals, "actually makes a more lethal and ready and fit force," he said in a video posted to Twitter on Thursday.
Ellen Mitchell contributed to this report, which was updated at 4:17 p.m.