May 5 (UPI) — President Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the U.S. Army pulled out of the post on Friday — due to what he says are politically motivated attacks by Democrats about efforts and remarks he’s made in the past.
Tennessee state Sen. Mark Green, nominated by Trump for the top civilian Army post in March, has been severely criticized in recent weeks for past comments about the lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender population and evolution.
In September, for example, he said at a tea party event in Chattanooga that “transgender is a disease.”
Friday, Green said his remarks have been “mischaracterized” for political gain.
“It is with deep regret today I am withdrawing my nomination to be the Secretary of the Army,” he said in a statement. “I am honored that President Trump nominated me for this position. I appreciate his support and confidence in me, as well as that of Secretary Mattis and many others, and their desire to Make America Great Again by preparing our military to face the many challenges in the world for the safety and security of our nation.
“But to meet these challenges, there should be no distractions. And unfortunately due to false and misleading attacks against me, this nomination has become a distraction.”
Green’s departure marks the second time Trump’s candidate for Army secretary has walked away from the post. The president’s initial choice, billionaire Vincent Viola, withdrew from consideration in February over concerns about potential conflicts of interest with his private business ventures.
Green classified his inability to continue with the nomination as “tragic.”
“Tragically, my life of public service and my Christian beliefs have been mischaracterized and attacked by a few on the other side of the aisle for political gain,” he said. “While these attacks have no bearing on the needs of the Army or my qualifications to serve, I believe it is critical to give the President the ability to move forward with his vision to restore our military to its rightful place in the world.”
In addition to his previous comments, Green has also been criticized recently for his legislative record in Tennessee — particularly for supporting unsuccessful legislation in the state senate that would have made it legal for mental health clinicians to deny service to LGBT persons. Another bill he supported sought to ban transgender students from using public restrooms.
Earlier this week, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., told USA Today Green’s past statements were “very concerning.”
Though Green was named by Trump in March, a formal nomination was never submitted to the Senate Armed Services Committee — which the first step most presidential appointees must take to get approved.
Green, 52, hadn’t resigned from the state senate, and will presumably return to work in the Nashville statehouse, The Tennesseean reported.
Tuesday, a political adviser to Green shot down speculation that the freshman Tennessee state senator would withdraw from the post.
“It’s absolutely untrue,” the adviser said, adding that reports of a troubled nomination amounted to “wishful thinking” by Democrats.
Green’s nomination was rebuked by advocacy groups, including the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), which released an audiotape recently the group says features Green saying that one of his primary duties as a state senator was to “crush evil.”
“All we did was quote you,” GLAAD tweeted at Green Friday, after his announcement.
“Audio that we leaked helped sink anti-LGBTQ Mark Green’s nomination to be Army Secretary.”
“GLAADiators we did it again!!! Our voices have been heard,” GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said in a tweet. “Mark Green retreats — discrimination has no place in our military.”