President Donald Trump’s nominee to head the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, retired Lt. Col. Daniel Gade, is garnering controversy after some of his past remarks on women in the military became public.
Gade – who was wounded twice in combat and lost his right leg in the course of war – allegedly said that allowing women to serve as fighters on the front lines would be “to the gigantic detriment of the warfighters and our national security.”
Standards at military schools and boot camps, Gade said, “will be seriously decreased.”
The controversial remarks have since been recounted by Gade himself, who told Reveal News through The Center for Investigative Reporting that he’s changed his mind in the meanwhile since.
“I now believe,” he said, “that anyone who can meet the physical and mental standards of the profession should be allowed into the profession in ground combat roles, and whatever role they qualify for.”
While Gade’s position may not have particularly remarkable in the days when debate over women in combat was still raging, it does suggest he may not be fit to head a federal agency tasked with ‘combating job discrimination’ and frequently taking ‘on companies for segregating or failing to hire women.’
Reveal recounts how, in 2011, Gade titled a blog post on the website BlackFive as “Women in combat units – Oh! Hell! No!”
The post contained references to a book and documentary which chronicled a platoon’s ‘deadly tour at a dangerous outpost in Afghanistan,’ according to Reveal.
“The idea of women in that environment is laughable,” wrote Gade.
Gade’s article was posted in the aftermath of the Military Leadership Diversity Commission’s report encouraging combat positions to be opened for women capable of meeting the same physical fitness requirements as men.
“Does anyone other than the commissioners of this silly commission believe that adding a few women to the sand bag preparation team at the OP [outpost] would really have helped?” he asked. “Or that the need for those women to get combat experience would outweigh the increased chances for many or all of the soldiers to go home in rubberized sacks?”
Despite his past comments, some of the military and West Point women Reveal interviewed said they do think Gade isn’t being dishonest.
Active duty Army officer Amanda Harrison said she felt Gade had “100% changed,” noting that she didn’t agree with what he wrote in 2011.
Nevertheless, she said Gade was her sponsor – or mentor – at West Point, and took an active role in helping her overcome challenges and succeed at the military academy. She said Gade became “like her second dad,” while taking a similar initiative with other women training to become officers.
“He just cares about cadets,” Harrison said. “Hopefully I showed him a different example and other women showed him a different example, and that helped him change his mind.”
Some civil rights and women’s advocacy figures who spoke to Reveal said that, while Gade’s change of heart was encouraging, there’s little in his background to indicate where he stands on many issues related to workplace discrimination.