The Army Wednesday night announced it has launched an investigation into how a presentation on racism and discrimination included a handout suggesting President Donald Trump’s campaign slogan “Make America Great Again” is considered “covert white supremacy.” The investigation was launched after a complaint from an Alabama congressman.
Mo Brooks, a Republican who represents the district where the handout was distributed at the Redstone Arsenal, called the handout a “violation of the Hatch Act” designed to keep the military out of partisan politics. Brooks sent a letter to Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy, copied to Trump, Attorney General William Barr and others.
He “demanded an investigation into Army personnel illegally using federal government resources to distribute racist and partisan political propaganda in direct violation of the federal Hatch Act and any number of military regulations,” according to a statement on his website. And he said that the Army must “prosecute and fire” Redstone Arsenal personnel responsible.
Cynthia O. Smith, an Army spokeswoman, said that “as soon as Department of the Army leaders were made aware of these products the Army initiated a 15-6 investigation to determine how this happened. The Army does not condone the use of phrases that indicate political support. The Army is and will continue to remain an apolitical organization.”
At issue is one of the Army’s Project Inclusion listening tour handouts — which Brooks said was delivered to troops and contractors in an invitation to the listening tour event at the Redstone Arsenal — that included a pyramid chart of phrases and actions that it states range from overt to covert white supremacy.
Lynchings, hate crimes, the n-word, swastikas and burning crosses are among those things considered “overt white supremacy,” according to the handout. “Make America Great Again,” “Eurocentric Education,” “not challenging racist jokes,” and “Celebration of Columbus Day” are among the many phrases and actions considered “covert white supremacy,” according to the handout.
The charts do not explain the meaning of covert and overt white supremacy, but Brooks said he took them to infer racism.
“Disturbingly, the Army chose Redstone Arsenal as the first location on a tour that will cover all Army 4 star commands,” Brooks said in a statement on his website.”The illegal, racist and politically partisan material includes a pyramid graphic that claims the following are evidence of “White Supremacy”, and, hence, racism.”
In an emailed statement, Smith, the Army spokeswoman, said the handout “included two unapproved pages that were sent out in error and immediately recalled."
She said the “slides — copied from a non-government website — included a word cloud with phrases that were intended to spark conversation; however, the document was predecisional and inappropriate for the discussion. The unapproved pages were in no way used as part of the ‘Your Voice Matters’ listening tour sessions.”
The tour is part of McCarthy’s Project Inclusion, which the Army describes as an effort to “improve diversity, equity and inclusion across the force and build cohesive teams” and created in the wake of the civil unrest that resulted after the police killing of George Floyd.
Unveiled on June 25, the Army said the “holistic effort will include a series of worldwide listening sessions with Soldiers and civilians, an examination of possible racial disparity in military justice cases, and the removal of photos from officer promotion boards beginning August 2020,” according to the Army.
Howard Altman is an award-winning editor and reporter who was previously the military reporter for the Tampa Bay Times and before that the Tampa Tribune, where he covered USCENTCOM, USSOCOM and SOF writ large among many other topics.