Military service members of all ranks are pushing back against Fox News host Tucker Carlson’s comments that pregnant women in the U.S. military "are going to fight our wars."
Carlson’s comments earlier this week have drawn rebukes from the Pentagon’s top spokesman, senior generals, and enlisted service members who have taken to social media to push back.
During a segment on China’s growing military and its focus on "masculinity," Carlson targeted President Joe Biden’s remarks on International Woman’s Day on Monday that mentioned changes in military gear, including better fitting body armor and new maternity flight suits that make it easier for women to serve in uniform.
"So, we've got new hairstyles and maternity flight suits," Carlson said on his show. "Pregnant women are going to fight our wars. It's a mockery of the U.S. military."
During the segment, Carlson showed a photo of an Air Force officer wearing an artificial pregnancy bump to demonstrate the design change that enabled the Maternity Flight Duty Uniform. The process of designing the maternity flight suit and the form fitting body armor was put in place before the Biden administration came into office and were designed to address current designs uncomfortable for female service members.
The Pentagon’s top spokesman, John Kirby, bluntly told reporters Thursday, "We absolutely won't just take personnel advice from a talk show or the Chinese military."
"Maybe those folks feel like they have something to prove, that's on them,” said Kirby, who added that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin "certainly shares the revulsion of so many others to what Mr. Carlson said in his opening statement."
Asked if Carlson should apologize, Kirby said, “I would hope that in the reaction he’s seen and hopefully in our reaction here today, he'll realize the mistake he made, and expresses 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.”
But on Thursday night's show Carlson was unapologetic and said the Pentagon had launched “a large and coordinated public relations offensive against” his show.
“Since when does the Pentagon declare war on a domestic news operation? I can’t remember that ever happening,” he said. “This is genuinely worrisome. The Department of Defense has never been more aggressively or openly political.”
Even before Kirby's comments senior military leaders had taken to social media to blast Carlson’s comments.
“Women lead our most lethal units with character," Sergeant Major of the Army Michael Grinston tweeted Wednesday. "They will dominate ANY future battlefield we're called to fight on."
Gen. Paul Funk, who heads the Army’s Army Training and Doctrine Command, agreed with Grinston, tweeting in response that "thousands of women serve honorably every day around the globe. They are beacons of freedom and they prove Carlson wrong through determination and dedication. We are fortunate they serve with us."
Current and former female service members also took to social media to counter Carlson's argument, some of them highlighting their pregnancies and military service.
"I have served almost 20 years in the Army." tweeted Shauna Gordon. "I have been pregnant 5 times in uniform and served over 4 years in Iraq. How dare you say women are a mockery to the military!"
Army veteran Jessica Stuart posted a picture on Twitter showing her in uniform just days before giving birth.
Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., a former Army helicopter pilot who lost both her legs when her aircraft was brought down, minced no words in condemning Carlson.
"While he was practicing his two-step, America’s female warriors were hunting down Al Qaeda and proving the strength of America’s women," she tweeted.
The debate spurred by Carlson’s comments led the U.S. Army’s Twitter account to post images of female soldiers as part of it ongoing effort to highlight military service as part of Women’s History Month.
“We took the opportunity presented by current discussions to feature our female Soldiers in a variety of military jobs and emphasize the Soldiers’ Creed,” said Col. Cathy Wilkinson, an Army spokesperson.
"The U.S. Military is far better off because of the contributions of women," said Mick Mulroy, a retired Marine and former deputy assistant Secretary of Defense for the Middle East and an ABC News contributor. "They have been awarded for their valor on the battlefield and many have given the ultimate sacrifice for their country."
"We should take this time to ensure every American is aware of this history and not listening to those who are either unaware of this history or deliberately misrepresenting it." he said.