USA

US Army investigating how 'MAGA' was described as a form of 'covert white supremacy' in handout

Earlier this week, a graphic was included in a handout disseminated at the US Army's Redstone Arsenal that suggested that President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign slogan was a form of "covert white supremacy."

On July 6 at Redstone, officials distributed a handout to personnel that "included two unapproved pages that were sent out in error and immediately recalled," Army spokeswoman Cynthia Smith said in a statement.

The slides were to promote the Army's so-called listening tour under a program it calls Project Inclusion, a new initiative to improve diversity and racial inclusion across the military.

The graphic shown on one of the slides includes a pyramid graphic sourced from Safehouse Progressive Alliance for Nonviolence that states blackface, swastikas and racist jokes are forms of "overt white supremacy." The graphic includes "MAGA," the "celebration of Columbus Day" and "All Lives Matter" as types of socially acceptable or "covert white supremacy."

"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," Smith said.

The Army did not specifically mention the MAGA phrase in its statement, long used by Trump and his supporters, only saying "the Army does not condone the use of phrases that indicate political support."

"The Army is and will continue to remain an apolitical organization," Smith said.

Republican Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama sent a letter to Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy on Wednesday, accusing the service of violating the Hatch Act, which bars federal employees from certain partisan political activities, and demanded an investigation into the matter.

"Including overtly political materials in the invitation for such an event is completely inappropriate and, in this instance and in my view, illegal," Brooks to wrote McCarthy. "Further, the inclusion of such materials serves only to ostracize segments of the workforce and create racial division, rather than minimize it."

In a statement, the Alabama Republican called for all Army personnel who "drafted, approved or sent this racist and politically partisan email, using government resources" to be prosecuted and fired for "blatantly and illegally injecting themselves into partisan political activities on government time using federal taxpayer money."

All of this comes as Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley are set to testify before the House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday, where they are likely to face questions over the role of the military during last month's nationwide protests over the death of George Floyd.

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