Hearing for Trump's Pentagon nominee cancelled over Islamophobic tweets
A US Senate committee abruptly cancelled a confirmation hearing on Thursday that was due to review the nomination of controversial former general Anthony Tata to a senior Pentagon post.
Retired Army Brigadier General Anthony Tata's history of offensive remarks about Islam as well as other inflammatory comments, were brought to the attention of the committee in a letter sent by Senate Democrats.
Tata, who currently advises the country's defence secretary, had been nominated by President Trump to become the Pentagon's under secretary for policy.
It was not yet clear on Thursday if Tata's nomination would be withdrawn.
Tata, a regular commentator on Fox News and staunch Trump ally, reportedly posted tweets in 2018 calling Islam the “most oppressive violent religion I know of.”
He also called former President Barack Obama a “terrorist leader,” and referred to him as Muslim. The tweets were later taken down.
The Senate Armed Services Committee chair, Senator Jim Inhofe, R-Okla, announced the hearing's cancellation shortly before it was scheduled to start.
“There are many Democrats and Republicans who didn’t know enough about Anthony Tata to consider him for a very significant position at this time,” Inhofe said, adding that the panel didn't receive the required documents from Tata until Thursday.
"As I told the president last night, we’re simply out of time with the August recess coming, so it wouldn’t serve any useful purpose to have a hearing at this point, and he agreed," Inhofe added.
Jonathan Hoffman, the Pentagon’s chief spokesperson, told reporters that Tata continues to work as an adviser to Defence Secretary Mark Esper.
“The department was looking forward to Gen. Tata having the opportunity to share his experience and success leading large public organisations, public sector organisations, and his extensive national security experience with the committee today,” Hoffman said during a Pentagon briefing.
Asked if Esper supported Tata’s tweets on Islam, Hoffman said, “The general himself has stated that he does not believe or support the comments he made. He issued a letter to the committee retracting those statements.”
The committee's top Democrat, Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island, said the senators had a closed-door meeting on Tuesday, and Inhofe “did the right thing” by canceling the hearing.
'"It’s fair to say members on both sides of the aisle have raised serious questions about this nominee," Reed said.
According to a statement from the senators who sent the letter, Tata walked back his statements, “many of which he deleted, only after his nomination became public.” They said Tata referred to the tweets as an “aberration in a four-decade thread of faithful public service.”
The letter to Tata, signed by nine Democratic senators and Vermont Independent Senator Bernie Sanders, said, “Your letter to committee leadership appears to be a conveniently timed retraction by someone who has suddenly realised his nomination is in jeopardy. But your multiple past statements cannot be dismissed simply as an aberration.”
Islamic groups hailed the hearing cancellation, after making repeated calls for lawmakers to oppose Tata's nomination.
“If Mr Tata truly does not have enough votes to proceed, his defeat will represent a victory over anti-Muslim bigotry, and for the principle that hatred has no place in our government,” said Robert McCaw, government affairs director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.