Army Secretary nominee Mark Green has withdrawn from consideration amid fierce opposition from Democrats and advocacy groups, he announced Friday.
Green blamed “false and misleading attacks” against him and said he was stepping aside so as not to be a distraction.
“It is with deep regret I am withdrawing my nomination to be the secretary of the Army,” he said in a statement.
“I am honored that President Trump nominated me for this position. I appreciate his support and confidence in me, as well as that of [Defense] Secretary [James] Mattis and many other, and their desire to Make America Great Again by preparing our military to face the many challenges in the world for the safety and security of our nation.”
Green stirred intense controversy over past comments and his voting record as a Tennessee state senator. Opposition mounted over his stances on the LGBT community, Muslims, Latinos, birth control, evolution and the Second Amendment, among other issues.
He’s said that “transgender is a disease” and agreed with a questioner who said “we need to take a stand on the indoctrination of Islam in our public schools,” among other controversial statements.
Green had defended himself by saying liberals are twisting his words and attacking him for his religion. He reiterated these complaints in his withdrawal statement.
“Tragically, my life of public service and my Christian beliefs have been mischaracterized and attacked by on the other side of the aisle for political gain,” he said.
“While these false attacks have no bearing on the needs of the Army or my qualifications to serve, I believe it is critical to give the president the ability to move forward with his vision to restore our military to its rightful place in the world.”
A slew of Democratic senators previously announced their opposition to Green. On Friday, 41 civil rights groups and 10 retired officers also urged Green to withdraw or be rejected by the Senate.
The Senate could have approved Green with Republican support alone. But Republicans had also expressed concern about the nomination.
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) said he found Green’s comments “very concerning” and that he heard from both Republicans and Democrats on the committee who shared that concern.
A Senate staffer told The Hill earlier this week there was concern about re-litigating long-settled military issues, such as the 2010 repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” the law barring gay and lesbian members of the military from serving openly.
“The sentiment is that the Army has enough challenges going forward that we should not be litigating social issues,” the staffer said.
Ashley Broadway Mack, president of the American Military Partner Association, said Friday that Green should not have been considered in the first place.
“His vicious attacks on LGBT people should have been disqualifying from the very beginning,” she said in a statement. “It took an overwhelming chorus of voices speaking out in outrage over the nomination, but we are pleased that in the end, what is best for our military families has prevailed. The U.S. Army needs leadership that will ensure all of our service members and their families have the support they need and deserve, and Mark Green was clearly not that leader.”
“Discrimination and anti-LGBTQ beliefs have no place in our military,” Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of GLAAD, said in a statement.
“GLAAD’s leaked audio and the outrage from our supporters helped sink Mark Green’s nomination, but we now need to continue to hold the Trump administration accountable by fighting back on every attempt to erase the LGBTQ community from this nation.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who announced his opposition to Green this week, said his withdrawal was the result of advocacy groups’ “hard work.”
“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.
“It’s because of the advocacy community’s hard work that Mr. Green decided to remove his hat from the ring, and it is now my hope that President Trump will take these views into consideration and nominate someone who can faithfully lead and represent all members of the U.S. Army.”
Prior to his nomination, Green was known for his military background. He was as a special operations flight surgeon who was the emergency physician during the operation that captured Saddam Hussein in 2003. He was the first person to interrogate Hussein following the capture.
Green is Trump’s second nominee for Army secretary to withdraw. Billionaire Vincent Viola withdrew in February over difficulties untangling from his financial ties.