Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Wednesday disputed Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) after he suggested that the U.S. military is practicing critical race theory.
Gaetz confronted Austin about the academic theory during a hearing before the House Armed Services Committee.
According to the Florida Republican, critical race theory is the "number one concern" of military officers.
"I've heard those sentiments most frequently from units that are majority-minority," Gaetz claimed. "How should the Department of Defense think about critical race theory?"
"I don't know what the issue of critical race theory is," Austin replied. "We do not teach critical race theory. We don't embrace critical race theory. And I think that's a spurious conversation. We are focused on extremist behaviors and not ideology, not people's thoughts, not people's political orientation."
"And thanks for your anecdotal input," he continued. "But I would say that I've gotten ten times that amount of input -- 50 times that amount of input on the other side that has said, 'We're glad to have had the ability to have a conversation without ourselves and our leadership.'"
Gaetz interrupted: "It may be that you're receiving that input in the ratios you describe because it was your directive. It may be people are concerned about criticizing your decision."
The congressman then accused Austin of "hiring a critical race theorist" as an adviser.
"This is the first I've ever heard [Bishop Garrison] being described as a critical race theorist," Austin responded. "Let me just share one thing you brought up, Congressman, about the input that comes to me. I trust my leadership from top to bottom that they will give me fair and balanced and unvarnished input."
"And for you to say people are telling me what I want to hear, I get it," he added. "You know, maybe they are telling you what you want to hear."
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