Likewise, Republicans said Fulton’s tweets showed bias against Republicans and Evangelicals and questioned whether she could effectively lead the sprawling staff portfolio.
Fulton apologized for several of the tweets, calling it “always wrong to tarnish a whole bunch of people with the beliefs or actions of one or a few.”
Senator Mike Rounds of South Dakota, followed by other Republicans, noted a tweet from January 2018 calling the GOP “racist” for not speaking out against racism. “Let’s be realistic,” Fulton wrote. “When one of our two national political parties is unable to speak out against racism, our system breaks down. It is not a political statement to say that the GOP is racist; it is a moral statement, and a statement underpinned by a growing mountain of evidence. # Fix this. “
Fulton replied that she regretted the tweet and said she aimed to make it clear that tackling racism is a moral issue that transcends parties.
“I want to take this opportunity to apologize to you and all committee members for this tweet. My intention was to say that racism is neither Democrat nor Republican, it is not a political issue, it’s a moral issue, “Fulton told Rounds. “But I got it all wrong. The words are muddled and confused, and I deeply regret them.”
Several other Republicans criticized his comments on social media, targeting tweets and statements criticizing evangelical Christians. Quoted cotton a tweet from June 2014 which followed the Supreme Court decision Lobby ruling arguing that the principle of religious freedom had been “tweaked to mean that conservative Christians can dictate their beliefs to the rest of us.”
“I think you will understand why so many members of this committee and the Senate do not think you are suitable for this position,” Cotton said. “You are going to be responsible for the military chaplains. You have been appointed Assistant Secretary of Defense for Manpower and Reserves Affairs and you have a long history of offensive and inflammatory accusations against Bible-believing Christians. I will oppose this appointment and I certainly hope that the entire Senate will oppose it as well. “
At the start of the hearing, Republican Jim Inhofe also asked Fulton if she intended to change policies regarding the rights of military chaplains and if she considered conservatives who oppose the right to abortion, such as him, as “radicals”. Fulton said she didn’t either.
Fulton has said she supports religious freedom and argued that her record in the military and beyond shows that she has always worked with people with different views.
She cited her tenure as a member of the visiting board of the US Military Academy and said some of her closest working partners were Republican members of Congress, House GOP owner Steve Womack of the Arkansas.
“I am a Christian,” Fulton said in an exchange with Senator Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee. “I will, as I have done throughout my career, work side by side with Republicans, with Democrats, with independents, with anyone, whatever their political beliefs for the mission, for what is best for our armed forces. “
Fulton, a former Army captain, graduated from West Point in 1980 and was a member of the first class to admit women.
Fulton was appointed by then-President Barack Obama to the West Point Visitors’ Council in 2011, becoming the council’s first openly gay member. She was also a strong supporter of repealing the Pentagon’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, which prohibited gay troops from serving openly.
Fulton is not the first of Biden’s Pentagon candidates to be scoured by Senate Republicans for past tweets.
Kahl’s appointment has run into problems with previous tweets criticizing GOP officials and the policies of the Trump administration.
After a bumpy confirmation hearing in which he apologized for his “disrespectful” rhetoric on social media, all Senate Republicans opposed his nomination. Kahl was finally narrowly confirmed in April.
Biden’s initial pick to head White House Management and Budget Office Neera Tanden was withdrawn in March over fears she would not have the votes to confirm amid criticism from Senators on her tweets .
Towards the end of Thursday’s hearing, Armed Services President Jack Reed (DR.I.) backed Fulton, noting he was aware of “no complaints” from his subordinates or superiors and concluded that his personal opinions “do not influence your professional activities.”