By Ted Barrett and Andrew Kaczynski, CNN
Updated: Tue, 16 Jun 2020 21:00:40 GMT
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman James Inhofe said Tuesday a CNN report about controversial comments made by the nominee to be the third highest official at the Pentagon "got our attention."
CNN reported last week that retired Army Brig. Gen. Anthony Tata, a frequent guest on Fox News and ardent defender of President Donald Trump, had a history of making Islamophobic and inflammatory remarks against prominent Democratic politicians, including falsely calling former President Barack Obama a Muslim.
"I've heard the same thing you've heard and for that reason we're going to make a decision," the Oklahoma Republican told CNN when asked what his plans were for moving forward with the confirmation process and hearings for Tata.
"I don't want to say it disqualifies him and we're not going to consider him, but I'm saying that got our attention," he said.
Inhofe said he does not know Tata and plans to assess the reporting before making a decision sometime in the near future.
He declined to characterize his feelings about the controversial comments Tata made.
"All I know is what I read and I learned a long time ago that I want to find out for myself," he said.
Inhofe noted that the committee has five other nominations in the queue ahead of Tata and would not say how long it would take to get to his.
Several Democrats on the committee said Monday that they would oppose Tata's nomination to oversee the Pentagon's policy shop.
A spokesman for Rhode Island Sen. Jack Reed, the top Democrat on the committee that would oversee Tata's nomination, said in a statement on Monday he would oppose the pick.
"Senator Reed's preference is to wait for the hearing process before commenting on nominees," Chip Unruh, Reed's press secretary, said in a statement reported by Politico. "But in this case there are real warning signs flashing and if this nomination moves forward, Senator Reed will oppose it."
In addition, Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Gary Peters of Michigan and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York also told CNN they would oppose Tata's nomination, with Warren telling CNN, "An Islamophobic conspiracy theorist who called President Obama a 'terrorist leader' should not be #3 at the Pentagon. Anthony Tata is by far Trump's most unqualified & ill-suited senior defense nominee -- a high bar."
CNN's KFile reached out to several other Republican members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, but did not immediately hear back on if they supported his nomination.
Tata has not returned multiple requests for comment. The Defense Department referred questions to the White House.
White House spokesman Judd Deere told CNN on Monday that Tata is a "distinguished public servant."
"Anthony Tata, the President's exceptionally qualified nominee for Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, is a distinguished public servant whose career has provided him with planning, policy, and operational experience both at home and abroad," Deere said in a statement. "His education, background, and record has earned him bi-partisan praise, and this attempt by the media to slander his reputation is disgusting. The White House stands by the President's qualified nominee."