A Texas Republican senator is taking heat after slamming the U.S. military as being "emasculated" in light of a new recruiting ad.
"Holy crap," Sen. Ted Cruz said on Twitter. "Perhaps a woke, emasculated military is not the best idea ..."
He shared a TikTok video comparing what appears to be Russian military propaganda, showing hypermasculine soldiers in ground combat training and jumping out of planes, and an animated U.S. Army ad featuring Cpl. Emma Malonelord, a soldier who was raised by two mothers in California, telling her story of advocating for LGBT freedoms and then enlisting in the service.
Cruz's comments were met with scorn from many in the military and veteran community. Some bashed him for seeming to attack a female soldier even as the Defense Department faces a pervasive sexual assault crisis and tries to make the military more welcoming to women.
"I think it's incredibly disturbing to see a sitting U.S. senator publicly push Russian propaganda, while simultaneously degrading the service of a very real soldier," 1st Lt. Kait Abbott, who serves in the Army National Guard, told Military.com.
"Cruz's comments provided a beacon for those who might believe otherwise, and who will continue to push the message and belief that those who do not fit the straight, white male mold are not welcome here," she added. "We are still seeing pushes for equity and equality for women, and the senator's comments provided a bed for misogyny to live in and thrive. My frustration lies here: The origin story of any young, white male is called the American Dream. Why does it become 'woke' when that story doesn't quite fit the narrative?"
Cruz responded to the backlash on social media, saying, "We have the greatest military on earth, but Dem politicians & woke media are trying to turn them into pansies."
Erin Perrine, Cruz's communications director, said the "media are politicizing" the armed forces to "promote a woke agenda."
Cruz's office didn't respond to questions from Military.com asking whether the senator knew the Army's commercials featured a real soldier and if he plans an apology.
"Our military should be focused on winning wars, and we endanger our national security and our service members when they focus on anything else," Perrine said in a statement to Military.com.
The military services in recent years have expanded recruiting tactics to fill talent gaps. Though combat roles actually make up a minority of jobs, there's no shortage of recruiting commercials highlighting combat. The elite 75th Ranger Regiment publishes new ads almost monthly.
Cruz and other Republicans have made recent efforts to turn military issues into a cultural fight. Last month, he wrote a letter to the Pentagon slamming the military for "being mobilized against the speech of American citizens or in the service of left wing political causes."
The letter was in response to military leaders calling out Fox News host Tucker Carlson for disparaging servicewomen and mocking the Defense Department for making uniforms that fit them better.
Some GOP lawmakers have taken issue with the effort to uncover extremists within the ranks after a number of veterans and active military personnel took part in the pro-Trump mob that attacked the U.S. Capitol in January.
Maj. Maggie Seymour of the Marine Corps Reserve told Military.com she thinks Cruz "knows exactly what he's doing, pandering to his base."
"He's getting them riled up, stoking their own fears and insecurities surrounding masculinity and heteronormativity," Seymour told Military.com. "It's playing into two threats really. The obvious Russian propaganda external threat. … But also the internal threat that comes from the idea that the very presence of women and gays is a threat to the 'masculinity' of the military. … And then people wonder why women are sexually harassed, abused or killed by their fellow service members."
-- Steve Beynon can be reached at Steve.Beynon@military.com. Follow him on Twitter @StevenBeynon