Army Secretary Says Leaders Should Stay ‘Out of the Culture Wars’ After General Defends Women in Uniform

Donahoe, Warmouth

Maj. Gen. Patrick Donahoe, left, was put in a temporary position pending his retirement. An inspector general report found his online feud with Tucker Carlson over women in the Army had brought “negative” publicity to the service. Army Secretary Christine Wormuth, right, said Monday, Oct. 10, 2022, that generals should not get involved with “culture war” issues. US Army photos.

US Army photos.

Maj. Gen. Patrick Donahoe’s Twitter bio isn’t long. “Transitioning Major General, US Army,” it reads. “Views are soon to be my own. Retweet doesn’t equal endorse.”

But Donahoe — the former commanding general of Fort Benning and the US Army Maneuver Center of Excellence — was temporarily reassigned in August, and an inspector general report subsequently found him at fault for feuding online with a Fox News host over the role of women in the Army.

On Monday, Oct. 10, Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth said she expected Army leaders to keep “out of the culture wars.” Speaking at the annual Association of the United States Army meeting, Wormuth said, “We get criticized sometimes for being ‘woke.’ I’m not sure what woke means. […] If woke means we are not focused on warfighting, we are not focused on readiness, that doesn’t reflect what I see at installations all around the country or overseas.”

Maj. Gen. Patrick Donahoe

Maj. Gen. Patrick Donahoe, former commanding general of Fort Benning and the US Army Maneuver Center of Excellence, planned to retire this month. Instead, he faces the results of an inspector general report that chastises him for his behavior on social media. US Army photo.

US Army photo.

Army leaders, Wormuth said, should be “keeping the Army apolitical and keeping it out of the culture wars, because frankly, we have got to be able to have a broad appeal. When only 9% of kids are interested in serving, we have got to make sure that we are careful about not alienating wide swaths of the American public.”

Wormuth said that general officers “need to be positive and factual about what the Army offers, but not get drawn into frankly some of the inflammatory kind of environment that frankly Twitter really lends itself to.”

The Army is facing a recruitment crisis, falling 25% short of its recruitment goals last year.

Wormuth’s comments, first reported by Task & Purpose, drew strong condemnation online.

Donahoe, who is in the process of retiring after 34 years of service, was placed in a temporary position as the Army’s Office of the Inspector General conducted its investigation. The IG took issue with Donahoe’s tweets aimed at Fox News’ Tucker Carlson after Carlson ran a segment that appeared to be a sexist attack against women in the Army.

“This is me, yesterday, conducting a re-enlistment for one of the tens of thousands of women who serve in our Army,” Donahoe wrote above a retweeted video. “Just a reminder that @TuckerCarlson couldnt be more wrong.”

Donahoe was responding to a segment on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show in which Carlson accused President Joe Biden of “making a mockery of the US military” for focusing on efforts to retain women in service.

According to the inspector general report obtained by both The Washington Post and Task & Purpose, Donahoe’s tweet in response to Carson “exhibited poor judgment” and “drew national attention for Donahoe and did not reflect an Army culture of dignity and respect.”

Tucker Carlson, Donahoe tweet

Maj. Gen. Patrick Donahoe took issue with Fox News host Tucker Carlson’s statements about women in the military. Carlson responded by calling Donahoe an “armed enforcer of the Biden administration.” Photo by Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons.

Photo by Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons.

Donahoe was not the only senior military leader to respond to Carlson’s comments to Twitter.

“I agree Pat,” tweeted Gen. Paul E. Funk II, a retired four-star general whose last position was commanding officer of the Army Training and Doctrine Command. “Thousands of women serve honorably every day around the globe. They are beacons of freedom and they prove Carlson wrong through determination and dedication. We are fortunate they serve with us.”

“Contrary to what you may be hearing this WOMAN & 1000’s of WOMEN like her are NOT ‘making a mockery of our military,’” Lt. Gen. Ted Martin tweeted the day after Carlson’s segment aired. “You WISH your daughter was as AWESOME as MINE! so BACK OFF.” Martin was commanding general of the US Army Combined Arms Center, commandant of the US Army Command and General Staff College, and commanding general of Fort Leavenworth until earlier this month.

Among active-duty soldiers, Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael Grinston, the most senior enlisted member of the Army, tweeted: “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.”

The IG did not address the intent or validity of Donahoe’s tweets, but instead noted that the resulting media attention was negative for the Army.

Ted Cruz

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz criticized Maj. Gen. Patrick Donahoe and other military leaders for their response to Tucker Carlson, claiming they were “happily weaponizing the institution against political critics of the sitting administration.” US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Booker Thomas.

US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Booker Thomas.

“The media and public outcry demonstrated MG Donahoe had not thought about what he typed before he posted his tweets to Mr. Carlson [...] nor had he given any consideration of the impacts given their larger audience of followers,” the IG wrote. “The provisions for dignity and respect in [the Army command policy] apply to ‘all people,’ ‘in all aspects of life.’”

So far, Donahoe is the only general officer known to have faced repercussions for his social media response to Carlson’s commentary.

These tweets caught the eye of Sen. Ted Cruz, who wrote a public letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on the subject.

“This spectacle risks politicizing the military after several centuries of efforts to keep military officials out of domestic affairs, undermining civil-military relations by having the military take a side in a contentious cultural dispute, and the perception that military leaders are happily weaponizing the institution against political critics of the sitting administration,” wrote Cruz.

Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth at AUSA

Speaking at the AUSA 2022 Annual Conference Monday, Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth said that Army leaders are supposed to be “keeping the Army apolitical and keeping it out of the culture wars.” US Army photo by Jorge Garcia.

US Army photo by Jorge Garcia.

The conflict with Carlson and Cruz was not the only Twitter interaction that the inspector general addressed. In July of 2021, Donahoe responded to a tweet by Marine veteran Josiah Lippincott. Lippincott compared the rates of suicide in the US military with the number of military COVID-19 deaths to criticize the COVID-19 vaccine mandate. Donahoe told Lippincott he was engaging in false equivalency and tagged the college that Lippincott was attending to “come get your boy.”

This interaction garnered Lippincott a spot on Laura Ingraham’s Fox News show, where he said, “Twitter spats with civilians and veterans are not the way to go about accomplishing [the military’s] mission.” (Lippincott has since removed his account from Twitter.)

Ingraham called out Donahoe by name, describing him as “a real piece of work.”

The tweet to Lippincott, as well as a subsequent tweet calling a self-described “fact checker at real raw news” a “shill for Putin,” landed Donahoe on Carlson’s radar again. “Are you comfortable with that?” Carlson asked rhetorically. “With a highly politicized US military that acts, basically, as the armed enforcer of the Biden administration?”

The IG also determined that some of Donahoe’s interactions with junior service members on Twitter had violated Training and Doctrine Command Regulation 350-36, which prohibits Army cadre from “engaging in a personal telephone conversation with a student unrelated to the training mission or an authorized activity and ‘friending’ or request to be a ‘friend’ with a student through social media or via a social media networking website.”

The Department of Defense did not have any formal social media guidance until August, when it released DOD Instruction 5400.17, outlining principles for social media use. It is unclear whether Donahoe’s tweets, or for that matter other tweets of high-ranking service members on their personal accounts, would run afoul of the prohibitions on engaging in political activity.

“His only offense was to champion on social media the very values the Army claims to stand for,” Washington Post columnist Max Boot wrote after obtaining the IG report. “Having a senior officer defend the Army’s policies should not be seen as improper involvement in politics — but that is how it is being portrayed, not just by the Army’s right-wing critics but also by the Army’s own inspector general.”

Last year, Cpl. Emma Malonelord became the public face of the “woke” Army after appearing in a recruitment ad featuring her lesbian parents. “Holy crap,” Cruz tweeted after seeing the video. “Perhaps a woke, emasculated military is not the best idea.” (See video below.)

Malonelord, now a sergeant, spoke up on Donahoe’s behalf last week. “I am extremely grateful to [Donahoe] and other leaders like him who are never afraid to come to the defense of those they serve with,” she tweeted. “When Tucker Carlson told me to ‘shut up’ and Ted Cruz called me a pansy last year it was leaders like MG Donahoe that helped my family find solace in knowing there were people out there that supported us.”

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Maggie BenZvi is a contributing editor for Coffee or Die. She holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Chicago, a master’s degree in human rights from Columbia University, and has worked for the ACLU as well as the International Rescue Commitee. She has also completed a summer journalism program at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. In addition to her work at Coffee or Die, she’s a stay at home mom and, notably, does not drink coffee. Got a tip? Get in touch!
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