Ted Lieu Defends U.S. Military in Tucker Carlson Spat as Ted Cruz Targets Defense Leaders

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz has thrown his weight behind right-wing criticism of the military after military officials and a Marine Corps Twitter account became embroiled in the furor over Fox News host Tucker Carlson's suggestion that the armed forces are becoming too "feminine."

Carlson, who regularly courts controversy on a range of identity politics issues, prompted fury among serving and former military members last week when he scoffed at the Pentagon's efforts to ensure and advance diversity within the ranks.

"Pregnant women are going to fight our wars," Carlson said last week. "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."

Among those critical of Carlson's remarks was Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby, who told reporters last week he shared the "revulsion" expressed after Carlson's remarks and said: "What we absolutely won't do is take personnel advice from a talk show host."

The II Marine Expeditionary Force's Information Center also came under fire from right-wing commentators after posting a message to Carlson declaring: "Get right before you get left, boomer." When challenged by a Twitter user, the account replied: "Come back when you've served and been pregnant."

The II MEF account later apologized and promised to "adjust fire," but Cruz is among those now demanding accountability and warning that the armed forces should not be drawn into a political debate over gender equality.

"Under Biden, the military is launching political attacks to intimidate Tucker Carlson & other civilians who criticize their policy decisions," Cruz wrote on Twitter Sunday. "Officials in uniform are being used for the campaign. I've demanded a meeting with the Commandant of the USMC to put a stop to it."

Cruz posted a letter he sent to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin in which he suggested that "the military's broader obligation to avoid political endorsements and controversy" is being "systematically undermined for the sake of leftwing ideology and political expediency."

But others, including Democratic Rep. Ted Lieu—himself an Air Force veteran—have praised military officials and branches for dismissing Carlson's comments.

"Thank you for standing up for women in the military and pushing back against attacks by the media," Lieu wrote on Twitter on Sunday. "Do not let @TuckerCarlson or Sen @tedcruz silence you. You are right to defend the honor of all service members."

Rep. Ilhan Omar also hit out at Cruz and his fellow Republicans on Twitter. "Republicans going after the military because of misogyny and a dangerously radical Fox News pundit is just wild and revealing," Omar tweeted Sunday in response to Cruz's letter. "Like I said before, these hypocrites do ultimately tell on themselves."

Military figures were broadly critical of Carlson for his remarks last week. Sergeant Major of the Army Michael Grinston was among those who, like Kirby, hit back at the Fox News host and defended their female comrades.

Grinston said on Twitter on Thursday: "Women lead our most lethal units with character. 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 NCO Corps in the world."

General Paul E. Funk II, commander of the Army Training and Doctrine Command, also lauded the "thousands of women" who "serve honorably every day around the globe" as "beacons of freedom."

Ted Cruz at Capitol event discussing COVID
Sen. Ted Cruz speaks at a press conference on school reopening during COVID-19 at the U.S. Capitol on March 4, 2021 in Washington, D.C. Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images