Navy Chief Dodges Questions on Ibram Kendi’s Extremism After Recommending His Book to Sailors

U.S. House Armed Services Committee / YouTube

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday on Tuesday defended putting Ibram X. Kendi’s book How to Be an Anti-Racist on the Navy’s list of books every United States sailor should read, under grilling from Republican Study Committee Chairman Jim Banks (R-IN) at a House hearing.

Banks, a U.S. Navy reservist, began by asking Gilday if he agreed with Kendi’s past statements and views in his book that Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett is a “white colonizer” because she adopted two children from Haiti, and that capitalism is essentially racist.

Gilday responded, “Here’s what I know, Congressman. There’s racism in the United States Navy.”

Banks cut off Gilday, “It’s a yes or no question, Admiral. Admiral, you recommended that every sailor in the United States Navy read this book.”

Gilday responded, “I’m not forcing anybody to read the book. It’s on a recommended reading list.”

Banks then asked Gilday if he read the book, to which Gilday confirmed, “I did.”

Banks asked Gilday if he agreed with Kendi’s statements that white people are a different breed of humans and are responsible for the AIDS virus.

Gilday responded: “Sir, I’d have to understand the context in which the statements were made. I’m not going to sit here and defend cherry-picked quotes from somebody’s book. This is a bigger issue than somebody’s book. What this is really about is trying to paint the United States military, and in this case, the United States Navy is weak, as woke. … We are not weak.”

Banks responded, “Admiral, I remain astonished that you put this book on a reading list and recommended that every sailor in the United States read it. I’m also surprised that you said you read it.”

Banks noted that the Pentagon ordered a stand-down in the ranks to discuss extremism because it detracts from military readiness, and asked Gilday if he thought that sailors accepting Kendi’s views that the military and the Navy is fundamentally racist would decrease morale, cohesion, and recruiting.

Gilday responded:

I do know this. Our strength is in our diversity, and our sailors understand that. Racism in the United States is a very complex issue. What we benefit from is an open discussion about those issues. That we don’t try to ignore it or rewrite it, but we actually have a discussion about it and there will be different views. And I trust sailors will come to an understanding of hopefully separating fact from fiction agreeing or disagreeing with Kendi in this case, and come to hopefully very useful conclusions about how we treat each other in the United States military.

Banks then questioned Gilday on what part of the book was redeeming and qualifies that every sailor should read. Gilday then began to defend Kendi, saying, “his own journey as an African American in this country, what he’s experienced…”

Banks again questioned him on if he thought sailors reading a book that said the U.S. military and Navy is racist would affect morale, cohesion, and recruiting.

Gilday, responded, “I think we’ll be a better Navy for having open, honest conversations about racism.”

One GOP source in the room said Gilday was “shaking like a leaf.”

Banks first queried Gilday about the book in February in a letter he sent but did not receive a satisfactory response.

“In my view, Kendi has espoused extremist beliefs that clearly violate the oath of the Constitution that I took when I served in the Navy,” Banks said at the beginning of his questioning.

The U.S. military, under the Biden administration, has dramatically stepped up efforts to address racism and “extremism” in the military, citing the January 6 Capitol riot. To date, there has been only one active-duty service member charged in connection to the riot, out of more than 450 charged.

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