U.S. Sen. Tommy Tuberville from Alabama is facing backlash for his interpretation of a “white nationalist” during a television interview on Monday night.
This interview aimed to provide clarification regarding his earlier comments, where he seemed to support the idea of white nationalists serving in the U.S. military.
During the CNN interview, Tuberville emphasized his rejection of racism but disagreed with host Kaitlan Collins when she asserted that white nationalists are inherently racist due to their belief in racial superiority.
During an interview with Birmingham-based radio station WBHM in May, Tuberville blamed the U.S. military’s recruitment challenges on the rejection of white nationalism.
“We are losing in the military — so fast — our readiness in terms of recruitment. And why? I can tell you why. Because the Democrats are attacking our military, saying we need to get out the white extremists, the white nationalists, people that don’t believe in [President Joe Biden’s] agenda,” Tuberville said in May.
Collins gave Tuberville a chance to “clarify the comments” during the CNN interview on Monday.
“I am totally against any type of racism,” said Tuberville, adding that he was a football coach for 40 years and worked with more minorities than anyone else in Congress.
“But when our military was being attack after 9/11—after Jan. 6, that was my first day on the Senate floor, I thought it was outrageous what senators from the Democratic side, Chuck Schumer said on the floor that night calling out people, calling people racist, calling people nationalists—white nationalists,” Tuberville continued. “White nationalist is another word then wanna use other than racism.”
After Collins pressed Tuberville on whether they should serve in the military and noted the “real definition,” he described white nationalists as people who hold “a few probably different beliefs.”
According to Webster’s Dictionary, a white nationalist is “one of a group of militant white people who espouse white supremacy and advocate enforced racial segregation.”
However, Tuberville said: “My opinion of a white nationalist, if someone wants to call them white nationalist, to me, is an American. It’s an American.”
Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer strongly criticized Tuberville’s remarks on Tuesday, urging him to apologize.
“The senator from Alabama is wrong, wrong, wrong,” Schumer said on the Senate floor. “The definition of white nationalism is not a matter of opinion. White nationalism, the ideology that one race is inherently superior to others, that people of color should be segregated, subjected to second-class citizenship, is racist down to its rotten core.
For the senator from Alabama to obscure the racist nature of white nationalism is indeed very, very dangerous.”
Tuberville’s downplaying of the term also made him a target for backlash on social media.
“Tommy Tuberville is saying the quiet part out loud; this is today’s GOP. Never thought I’d see a U.S. Senator sanitize and defend white nationalism in real time, but alas, here we are,” wrote one Twitter user.