President Donald Trump's choice for Army secretary has withdrawn his nomination in the face of growing criticism over his remarks about Muslims, and gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans.
Mark Green, a Republican state senator from Tennessee, said in a statement that “false and misleading attacks” against him had turned his nomination into a distraction.
“Tragically, my life of public service and my Christian beliefs have been mischaracterised and attacked by a few on the other side of the aisle for political gain,” Mr Green said, expressing “deep regret” over the decision.
Mr Green is the second Trump nominee for Army secretary to withdraw.
The move to step aside comes after a video began circulating of a remarks Mr Green gave in September to a tea party group in Chattanooga. Mr Green, who is opposed to gay marriage, said being transgender is a disease. He urged that a stand be taken against “the indoctrination of Islam” in public schools“ and also referred to the ”Muslim horde“ that invaded Constantinople hundreds of years ago.
Several Senate Democrats, including Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, declared they would oppose Mr Green's nomination over what they said were intolerant and disturbing views. Democrat Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, a combat veteran who lost her legs and partial use of her right arm during the Iraq war, said in a statement that Mr Green wasn't fit to lead the service.
Mr Schumer welcomed Green's move to step aside.
“Mark Green's decision to withdraw his name from consideration as Army secretary is good news for all Americans, especially those who were personally vilified by his disparaging comments directed toward the LGBTQ community, Muslim community, Latino community and more,” he said in a statement.
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Also on Friday, a coalition of 41 organisations led by the Human Rights Campaign called on the leaders of the Senate Armed Services Committee to reject Mr Green's nomination. The letter to Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Jack Reed of Rhode Island said Mr Green's “shameful rhetoric” is at odds with the Army's core values and will affect recruiting.
Mr Green's withdrawal underscores the challenges Trump has faced in filling two of the service secretary posts. The president's first pick to be the Army's top civilian, Vincent Viola, dropped out in early February because of financial entanglements, and about three weeks later Philip Bilden, the Navy secretary nominee, withdrew for similar reasons.
The GOP-led Senate is scheduled to vote on the nomination of Heather Wilson to be Air Force secretary on Monday.
Mr Trump's decision to tap Mr Green in early April represented a stark contrast to President Barack Obama's choice of Eric Fanning for the post. Mr Fanning, who'd been a senior Pentagon official, was the first openly gay leader of one of the military branches.
Mr Green graduated from West Point in 1986 and served as an Army physician. Green is the CEO of Align MD, which provides leadership and staffing to emergency departments and hospitals, according to the White House. He served in the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment where he made three combat tours to the Middle East.
As a Tennessee state senator, Mr Green sponsored legislation last year that his critics have said would make it easier for businesses to discriminate against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.
During his remarks before the Chattanooga tea party group, Mr Green said the Obama administration has “bred general officers who are afraid of their shadow.” He also said that “if you poll the psychiatrists, they're going to tell you that transgender is a disease.”
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