White House

Another Trump pick to lead Army drops out, claims he was targeted for Christian beliefs

In this April 17, 2013, file photo, state Sen. Mark Green sits at his desk in the Senate chamber in Nashville, Tenn.
In this April 17, 2013, file photo, state Sen. Mark Green sits at his desk in the Senate chamber in Nashville, Tenn. AP

President Donald Trump’s second attempt to nominate an Army secretary failed on Friday when his pick, Tennessee state Sen. Mark Green, withdrew from consideration amid increasingly fierce backlash to his controversial comments about the LGBT community, Muslims and evolution.

“It is with deep regret today I am withdrawing my nomination to be the secretary of the Army,” he said in a statement. “Unfortunately, due to false and misleading attacks against me, this nomination has become a distraction.”

Unfortunately due to false and misleading attacks against me, this nomination has become a distraction.

Mark Green, Army Secretary nominee

Green, a former flight surgeon who treated Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein after his capture by American troops, faced strong opposition from civil rights groups for his anti-LGBT statements and legislative record, and from Muslim-American groups, who said he had made Islamophobic comments.

Green was a stark contrast to the person he would have been replacing, President Barack Obama’s appointee Eric Fanning, who was the first openly gay Army secretary.

[READ MORE: Trump’s 2nd pick for Army chief draws ire of LGBT, Muslim groups]

Trump’s original pick to lead the Army, New York billionaire Vincent Viola, withdrew after citing difficulty disentangling from his businesses.

If Trump had hoped for an easy confirmation, Green might not have been the best choice. A very conservative lawmaker who until recently had plans to run for governor, Green came with a long history of speeches at churches and political events documented on the internet.

Among the ones that were dug up by journalists and groups that opposed him were speeches where he said that “transgender is a disease,” and asserted that looking at Victoria’s Secret catalogues is “one step away from God, and it’s one step closer to Saddam Hussein.” He also called evolution “a bad argument” and referred to a “Muslim horde” and the “assault of Islam” in speaking about the history of the Ottoman empire.

Green said he had been unfairly targeted for his Christian faith.

“Tragically, my life of public service and my Christian beliefs have been mischaracterized and attacked by a few on the other side of the aisle for political gain,” he said in his statement.

[READ MORE: Ethics concerns lead second of Trump’s armed services secretary nominees to withdraw]

Groups that had opposed him celebrated the withdrawal.

“Mark Green’s dangerous views and hateful comments are disqualifying for any public servant, let alone someone wishing to serve as secretary of the Army,” said Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign. “His nomination was a clear indication of Donald Trump’s lack of judgment and failure to be a president for all Americans.”

Green’s nomination drew immediate backlash from Democrats, and even some Republicans. His support was lukewarm at best, and few in Washington showed an appetite to defend his controversial comments.

“He was the wrong choice to serve as secretary, and should not have been nominated in the first place,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

Three months into Trump’s presidency, in which he promised to prioritize the military, his Defense Department still doesn’t have a confirmed service secretary. His choice to lead the U.S. Navy, Philip Bilden, also dropped out, citing difficulties meeting ethics requirements. The Trump administration has yet to nominate a replacement. The president’s choice to lead the Air Force, former New Mexico Rep. Heather Wilson, is slated for a confirmation vote in the Senate next week.

Green, a West Point graduate who wrote a book about the night he spent with Saddam Hussein after U.S. troops captured the Iraqi dictator, was elected to the Tennessee state Senate in 2012.

Vera Bergengruen: 202-383-6036, @verambergen