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Sen. Tommy Tuberville backtracks after calling white nationalists ‘American’

Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) was forced to reverse course Tuesday after suggesting during a CNN interview Monday night that describing white nationalists as racists was up for debate.

“My opinion of a white nationalist, if somebody wants to call them a white nationalist, to me, is an American,” the former college football coach told CNN’s Kaitlin Collins.

“It’s an American. Now, if that white nationalist is a racist, I’m totally against anything that they want to do because I am 110% against racism.”

Collins, an Alabama native, pressed Tuberville repeatedly on his comments, at one point stating that “a white nationalist is racist.”

“Well, that’s your opinion,” Tuberville shot back.

The jaw-dropping exchange came as Tuberville was already under fire for single-handedly blocking hundreds of nominations for Defense Department positions over the military’s abortion-access policies implemented after the overturn of Roe v. Wade.

Tuberville later clarified that if “people think that a white nationalist is a racist,” he agrees that particular individual should not serve in the military.

In May, the Alabama Republican stepped into controversy by criticizing efforts to root out white supremacists in the military.

At the time, the 68-year-old posited that “the Democrats characterize all MAGA Republicans in the military as white nationalists” and also contended that white nationalists are “Americans.”

Tuberville: I’m totally against racism. If the Democrats want to say that white nationalists are racists, I’m totally against that, too.

Tuberville was peppered with questions about the interview by the Capitol Hill press corps Tuesday and repeatedly tried to move beyond his comments from the previous night.

On Tuesday afternoon, Tuberville relented, telling reporters that “white nationalists are racists.”

Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle blistered his remarks.

On Tuesday afternoon, Tuberville relented, telling reporters that “white nationalists are racists.”

CNN’s @mkraju: “Do you have any concerns that … Sen. Tuberville … seems to have a hard time denouncing white nationalism, especially … white nationalism in the military?”Mitch McConnell: “White supremacy is simply unacceptable in the military and in our whole country.”

“White supremacy is simply unacceptable in the military and in our whole country,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters.

“It’s hard to believe that the senator from Alabama has to be corrected again. The senator from Alabama is wrong, wrong, wrong. The definition of white nationalism is not a matter of opinion,” Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said on the chamber floor.

“For a member of the United States Senate to speculate about what white nationalism means, as if it’s some benign little thought experiment, is deeply and terribly disturbing,” he added.

“White supremacy and racism have absolutely no place in our country. Period. The end,” Tuberville’s fellow Alabaman, Sen. Katie Britt told reporters.

“White nationalism is racism, by definition. It’s not a matter of opinion. For the senator to play games with this is dangerous stuff. He should apologize and change course,” said Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.).

Tuberville’s hold on Pentagon nominations has left the Marine Corps without a Senate-confirmed commandant for the first time in 164 years after Gen. David H. Berger ended his tenure as the service’s top officer Monday.

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