The Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota is defending itself from claims of political bias after an unofficial message cautioning airmen to not attend a conservative political rally began circulating on social media.
At issue is the Dakota Patriot Rally, an event held Friday in Minot featuring a pro-Trump group known as Turning Point Action. The group’s founder is Charlie Kirk, a white conservative who has built a following among primarily far right conservative activists. For instance, “scumbag” is how he has described George Floyd, the Black man whose murder at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer set off anti-law enforcement protests around the globe.
A message that was re-posted to a public Facebook page and was purported to be from base leadership described the group as an “alt-right organization.” It said that “participation with groups such as Turning Point Action could jeopardize their continued service in the U.S. military.”
The outcry was immediate, with Republican U.S. Sen. Kevin Cramer, of North Dakota, and Kirk among those denouncing the message.
The base responded that the initial message was based “on incorrect data and sent outside of official base messaging platforms.” It said that it subsequently corrected the message traffic to categorize the event as a local political fundraiser and stressed that there was no issue with military members participating as long as they complied with regulations such as not wearing their uniforms.
“All Air Force Airmen have a Constitutional right to freedom of assembly,” the post said.
But Cramer said in a news release that a “greater apology is needed.” He said he spoke with Gen. David Allvin, chief of staff of the U.S. Air Force, about what he described as a “biased and misguided official communication.”
He said Allvin indicated that the base issued an internal correction within an hour. Why then, Cramer asked, did it take days for the base to issue a statement on its official website and Facebook page?
“It’s disgusting to me that anybody in our Air Force today would consider a Turning Point USA event anything other than a pro-American, patriotic, and frankly, pro-military group,” Cramer said.
Kirk said on X, formerly Twitter, that the Department of Defense has “declared WAR on conservatives” and called on Congress to “immediately investigate this absurd, unhinged threat.”
The Department of Defense already had drawn the ire of some conservatives. One flashpoint is new Pentagon rules that allow reimbursement for travel when a service member has to go out of state to get an abortion or other reproductive care. The policy led Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville to block hundreds of military nominees.