Former NFL Pro Bowl running back Herschel Walker, now the Republican candidate seeking one of Georgia’s two U.S. Senate seats, mocked the idea of allowing transgender individuals to serve in the U.S. military at a recent campaign rally.
Speaking at a campaign event last week, Walker treated the idea that the military would ask service members about their gender identity as a joke, according to video obtained from C-SPAN.
“Hey, just think about it: Pronoun? In our military?” he said to laughter from the crowd and those present at the event, including Republican Senators Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Rick Scott (R-Fla.). “How do you identify? In our military? These are war times. What happened to push-ups? Sit-ups?
“Because I can tell you right now, China, Iran, and Russia are not talking about pronouns,” Walker added, referring to three countries that are infamous for their brutal crackdowns on LGBTQ rights and imprisonment — or, in the case of Iran, executions — of LGBTQ people.
Walker’s comments were part of a much longer diatribe railing against the political Left, blaming them for all the ills befalling the United States, due in part to their continued embrace of “wokeness,” a term that conservatives have redefined as being overly concerned with issues of social justice and political correctness.
“They got us believing we can bring wokeness into our military,” Walker lamented. “We should never bring wokeness into our military. The greatest lethal fighting force ever assembled. And they’re bringing wokeness into our military”
Walker’s comments mocking pronouns and the idea of transgender service members are interesting, in light of attacks from political opponents who have accused Walker of falsely claiming to have served in the military. That controversy stems from an interview the candidate gave to Rolling Out, a Black media outlet, in which he claimed to have enjoyed success in life beyond football.
“I’ve been very fortunate in the business world. I’ve been very fortunate in my military, uh, career, that I was doing a lot of things with the military,” he said.
According to a CNN fact-check, Walker never served in the military, but worked “as a paid spokesman for a for-profit company that runs a mental health program for service members and veterans,” known as the Patriot Support program, which itself came under scrutiny back in May.
“While Walker has visited numerous military bases to discuss mental health and other issues, it’s misleading at best — and arguably just false — to refer to a military ‘career’ or to claim that he did anything ‘in the military,'” CNN reported.
Organizations that have advocated for transgender service members and allowing LGBTQ people to serve openly dismissed Walker’s remarks as campaign rhetoric and accused him of spreading misinformation about how the military treats transgender personnel.
“Herschel Walker’s comments are nothing more than disappointing and misinformed rhetoric that caters to a targeted voter demographic,” Jennifer Dane, the CEO and executive director of the Modern Military Association, said in a statement. “The Department of Defense has rightfully taken steps to ensure its forces are more inclusive and equitable and represent the communities they serve by focusing recruitment efforts and policies that enable all who are qualified and capable to join. We applaud those efforts and the progress being made.”
SPARTA, an advocacy group for transgender military members, declined to comment on Walker’s remarks specifically, although the organization did note that “building inclusive cultures that embrace everyone enhances outcomes, including military effectiveness” — an assertion that advocates of open military service, including the recently-closed Palm Center, which conducted extensive research on the topic, have argued for decades.
Walker, like many other GOP candidates and right-leaning political action committees this election cycle, has singled out transgender rights as a wedge issue to attack Democrats over “wokeness.” During an appearance on a conservative talk radio show in September, Walker accused his opponent, incumbent Sen. Rev. Raphael Warnock of voting “to put men in women’s sports” saying that allowing trans participation was like asking female athletes to compete against NFL-caliber athletes like himself.
The vote to which he referred was an amendment to a COVID-19 relief bill, introduced by Alabama Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville, that would have stripped funding from school districts that allow transgender athletes to compete on sports teams designated for females. Warnock, like nearly all Democratic senators, voted against attaching the amendment to the bill, allowing the bill to narrowly pass the Senate on a 50-49 vote.
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