Hegseth: Pentagon’s Gilday ‘infected’ ensigns’ reading list with activist book by ‘anti-racist’ Kendi

Following another heated exchange between the Pentagon’s chief of Naval operations and a top Republican, centered around the former’s inclusion of an “anti-racist” book on the Navy’s official reading list, “Fox & Friends” host Pete Hegseth sounded off on “The Story” about the detrimental effects that wokeness in the Pentagon can have on America’s defensive readiness and troop morale.

One week after Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind., challenged Admiral Michael Gilday on the inclusion of Ibram X. Kendi’s “How to Be an Anti-Racist” on the list of recommended reading for sailors and ensigns, Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., – himself a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom – called on Gilday to explain further.

“I want to give you a sampling of some things included in books like this, the notion that capitalism is racist and racism is capitalist [and that] the only remedy for past discrimination is present discrimination – How do these books get on your reading list?” Cotton asked Gilday Tuesday.

Gilday responded that the death of George Floyd and other related events make it “clearly obvious” that the discussions about racism are “still a painful part of our culture” and must be better understood through the writings of Kendi and others. He added that he does not agree with every assertion that Kendi, who holds a doctorate in African-American studies from Temple University, makes.

Cotton had previously labeled Kendi a “fraud” after he made a racially-charged criticism of then-Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett – who has 2 adopted Ethiopian children —  in 2020.

Hegseth, who is also a veteran, told host Martha MacCallum that Kendi’s work has “absolutely no relevance” to the cohesion of the military or its ability to defend America and fight in wars.

He said that a key element of the U.S. military’s basic training has always been to level the field and make each ensign or soldier equal – no matter their historical circumstances or immutable characteristics.

“When you go to basic training … you are broken down to say the superficial differences don’t matter when we come together as a team to close with and destroy the enemy,” he said.

“In the Navy’s case, as we try to maintain global dominance on the high seas, all it has to do with is catering to the latest fads of the current administration — which is trying to push these theories throughout government.”

During the previous hearing, when he was challenged by Banks, Gilday testified that “there is racism in the Navy just as there is racism in our country”. 

Hegseth said that the military has always been a “meritocracy” where a person’s worth is determined by their performance, not other concerns.

While he characterized the Navy as now “infected” with an activist reading list, Hegseth said the U.S. Army’s reading curriculum has yet to be “cracked” by purported “anti-racist” sentiment.

“But the Navy and the chief of naval operations (Gilday) has, and it’s bad for the sailors and ensigns,” he said.

Hegseth added that, since the Capitol riot on January 6, a military working group continues to vet recruits to essentially determine their personal political persuasions.

“Winning wars, saving lives, being there for the men on the right and the left of you. Selflessness is required. Unit cohesion is required. Knowing your buddy will be there for you in that critical is required. The only thing that matters is whether they’re a member of your team or squad; I’m talking in an Infantry context,” he said.

“Your platoon or your company and what they’ll be doing in those decisive moments and how trained and well-prepared they are.”


Hegseth noted that the Navy is not infallible and that the Pentagon should be more focused on bettering its operational abilities in those arenas, pointing in one instance to the 2016 capture of U.S. sailors by Iranian authorities.

“Remember when we surrendered to the Iranian fishing boat? There have been plenty of mistakes from the Navy,” said Hegseth.

“What about rising powers like China who want to exploit sea power to expand their orbit of control? I don’t understand how you can think these types of things are good when you’ve had enough missteps and a huge challenge on your hands with the threat the Navy is facing.”



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