Alabama Republican Senator Tommy Tuberville was criticized after he expressed his concerrn to Fox News personality Laura Ingraham about "woke" U.S. Navy sailors reading poetry on "aircraft carriers."
Tuberville's remarks came as he faces significant backlash for blocking military promotions as a protest against the Pentagon's policy of providing paid leave and travel expenses to service members seeking abortions in other states.
He erroneously claimed there is "wokeness" in the Navy and suggested to Ingraham that it is imperative for him and his fellow conservatives to stop it. He specifically mentioned Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro, urging him to prioritize shipbuilding and recruitment, which is down.
You can hear what Tuberville said in the video below.
For the political right, "wokeness" or "wokeism" generally refers to a left-leaning perspective that acknowledges the widespread existence of racism, sexism, and other forms of discrimination in American society.
Advocates of this viewpoint assert that addressing these systemic biases requires ongoing vigilance and policies that consider identity and historical disadvantages. However, conservatives often employ the term "wokeism" to criticize a broader spectrum of liberal ideas that they perceive as detrimental to historically privileged groups, meritocracy, and religious freedom.
With this in mind, Tuberville said:
“Right now we are so woke in the military, we are losing recruits right and left."
"Secretary [Carlos] Del Toro of the Navy, he needs to get to building ships; he needs to get to recruiting; and he needs to get wokeness out of our Navy.
"We’ve got people doing poems on aircraft carriers over the loudspeaker. It is absolutely insane the direction that we’re headed in our military.”
Tuberville's statements exposed him to immediate criticism and mockery online.
According to Business Insider, the "poems" Tuberville is complaining about refer to nonbinary Navy officer Lt. j.g. Audrey Knutson who shared a personal poem during an "LGBTQ spoken-word night held aboard the USS Gerald R. Ford."
As Adm. Mike Gilday, then the Navy's highest-ranking officer, told Tuberville during a Senate hearing earlier this year:
"I'll tell you why I'm particularly proud of this sailor. Her grandfather served during World War II, and he was gay, and he was ostracized in the very institution that she not only joined and is proud to be a part of, but she volunteered to deploy on Ford. And she'll likely deploy again next month when Ford goes back to sea."
Tuberville isn't the only conservative this week to face criticism for absurd statements about "woke" initiatives.
Earlier, Scott Baugh—a Republican attorney looking to win a Democratic-held House seat in Orange County, California—was widely mocked after he asserted that "wokeism" poses a greater threat to the United States than such historical events as both world wars, the Civil War, and the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Baugh claimed "wokeism" is synonymous with communism, and lamented its influence within churches. He contended that churches are neglecting their fundamental duty to address "sin," highlighting the need for a "savior."
Though he was called out by Democrats for promoting "culture war nonsense," his campaign blamed "liberal advocacy groups and their media allies" for perceived threats to education, faith-based institutions, law enforcement, and individual freedoms.