Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Alabama, appeared to defend white nationalists in a recent interview by suggesting they should not be barred from serving in the military, prompting his office to clarify the comments.

in a interview Posted this week by Birmingham-based radio station WBHM, Tuberville criticized the state of the military and said Democrats were to blame.

“We are losing our draft readiness very quickly in the military,” said Tuberville, a member of the Armed Services Committee. «And why? I can tell you why. Because the Democrats are attacking our military, saying we have to get the white extremists out, the white nationalists, the people who don’t believe in [President Joe Biden’s] diary.»

Asked if he thought white nationalists should be allowed in the military, Tuberville said: «They call them that. I call them Americans.»

A spokesman said Wednesday that Tuberville’s comments were an expression of his skepticism that white nationalism was an issue among service members.

«Senator Tuberville’s quote shows that he was skeptical of the idea that there are white nationalists in the military, not that he believes they should be in the military,» Steven Stafford said in a statement. first shared with

Stafford separately told NBC News that Tuberville «has kind of a sarcastic sense of humor» and that he «expressed doubts that this was a problem in the military.»

«I think if people listen to his tone of voice, it’s clear what he’s saying,» Stafford said, adding that Tuberville was «referring to this specific training issue that a lot of other people have talked about, a lot of other senators.»

The Defense Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday night.

Tuberville has expressed his opposition to training aimed at ridding the army of extremists. in a hearing of March 28 with Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Tuberville suggested that Austin had put service members through «hell» by demanding «mandatory training to root out extremists.»

Austin responded that the military «has always had regulations against extremist behavior.»

A 2020 Pentagon report released the following year detailed examples of white supremacy in the military without providing an estimate of the number of white supremacists in the services and called for changes to recruiting methods to identify applicants’ potential ties. with domestic terrorism. . Months later, Austin ordered new steps to address the threat posed by extremism in the military.