Pentagon stands behind extremism expert targeted by the right

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Bishop Garrison currently leads the Defense Department's Countering Extremism Working Group.

On Thursday the Department of Defense said it is standing by Bishop Garrison, a senior adviser to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, despite attacks from Republican members of Congress and right-wing media outlets including Fox News.

Garrison was appointed to his role at the Pentagon in February and currently leads the Countering Extremism Working Group, which was established by Austin in April to review and update department policies regarding extremism within the armed services.

Garrison is a West Point graduate who served two tours in Iraq with the U.S. Army, and worked as an adviser to former President Barack Obama's 2012 reelection campaign and to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign in 2016.

"The Department has full confidence Mr. Garrison can lead the Counter Extremism Working Group as it carries out its mission," Lisa Lawrence, a spokesperson for the Department, told the conservative Daily Caller.

"The Department is focused on addressing the corrosive and potentially dangerous behavior that can be inspired by extremist ideology – behavior that harms good order and discipline and our readiness."

Garrison has been criticized by the right for his tweets about Donald Trump, in particular, tweets in which he said, "Support for him [Trump], a racist, is support for ALL his beliefs," and "He's dragging a lot of bad actors (misogynist, extremists, other racists) out into the light, normalizing their actions. If you support the President, you support that."

Garrison made those comments following Donald Trump's attack on the late Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), who represented Baltimore, Maryland. Trump had tweeted of the majority-Black city, "No human being would want to live there" and called it "a disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess."

But now, years later, the right, including GOP lawmakers, have latched on to those tweets, after they resurfaced in a right-wing hit piece published in an outlet called Revolver on May 5. The outlet called Garrison a "critical race theory loving, Trump Derangement Syndrome suffering, fake news spreading, 100% partisan hack," citing his 2019 tweets as evidence. The report did not note the context of Garrison's commentary concerning Trump's racism.

Fox News host Pete Hegseth attacked Garrison the day after the piece came out, describing him as the Pentagon's "MAGA purge man" while discussing the Pentagon's anti-extremism efforts.

And days later, another Fox News host, Tucker Carlson, described Garrison as a "lunatic" for his criticism of Trump's racism.

On May 19, during a House Armed Services Committee hearing involving recommendations from the National Commission Military, National, and Public Service, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) criticized Garrison. Gaetz claimed he was "deeply troubled" by a tweet Harrison wrote in January of 2020, as Trump's impeachment trial was underway, which stated, "Calls for civility, rather than shouting down falsehoods and misinformation, shall be the death of this nation."

Then, on May 26, 30 Republican members of the House signed a letter complaining of "creeping left-wing extremism" in the military, citing the "report" from Revolver that singled out Garrison's tweets.

The letter, which was led by Rep. Matt Rosendale and co-signed by members like Lauren Boebert (R-CO), Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), Paul Gosar (R-AZ), Greg Steube (R-FL), Matt Gaetz (R-FL), and others, called on Sec. Austin to "fight back" against extremism from the left.

That same day, Gosar (R-AZ) complained on Twitter that, "Biden and Bishop Garrison are prioritizing bigotry and anti-white hatred over national security," sharing the Revolver piece. Notably, just two months earlier, Gosar was a featured speaker at a conference of extremists alongside white supremacists.

The attacks directed at both Garrison and the efforts by the Biden administration to combat military extremism follow years of the right downplaying the threat posed in military ranks. But research has shown that extremism continues to be a serious problem for the military.

recent study from George Washington University and the U.S. Military Academy at West Point found that at least 12% of the people charged with rioting at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 had some form of military experience.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.