President Trump’s pick to be the next Army secretary surrendered to the gay rights movement on Friday and announced he has withdrawn.
Mark E. Green said he and his Christian beliefs were the victims of relentless attacks by left-wing activists and Democrats.
Mr. Trump said in early April he intended to nominate Mr. Green, a West Point graduate, an Army flight surgeon and a war hero who serves as a Tennessee state senator and runs a multi-million dollar emergency-room staffing firm.
But his candidacy ran into quick trouble from the LGBTQ movement who condemned comments it said he made about transgender people. Liberal critics also said Mr. Green had made insensitive remarks about Islam.
Mr. Green fired back that activists had taken his comments out of context.
“The liberal left has cut and spliced my words about terrorism and ISIS blatantly falsifying what I’ve said,” he wrote on an April 25 Facebook post. “Let me be very clear, the only people I have ever called evil are murderous terrorists trying to kill Americans. The only people I have ever suggested be crushed are the terrorist enemies of our nation. I have never and will never force my religion on anyone. If God gives Mankind a choice, which I believe, who am I to force my faith on anyone?”
But on Friday, he said he did not want to become a distraction as a contested confirmation process awaited him in the Senate Armed Services Committee, where chairman John McCain, Arizona Republican, expressed reservations.
“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,” Mr. Green said. “While these 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.
Since he left the Army as a lieutenant colonel and entered business and politics, the armed forces changed socially under President Barack Obama. Mr. Trump’s immediate predecessor as commander in chief lifted the ban on gays and transgender people in the ranks and set policy for how personnel can change their gender identity.
For his part, Defense Secretary James Mattis backed Mr. Green in an April 7 statement.
“Mark will provide strong civilian leadership, improve military readiness and support our service members, civilians, and their families,” he said. “I appreciate his willingness to serve our country. He had my full support during the selection process, and he will have my full support during the Senate confirmation process. I am confident of Mark’s ability to effectively lead the Army.”
Eleven Republicans signed a letter to Mr. McCain endorsing Mr. Green.
Mr. Green earned the Air Medal, with combat “V” device for valor. He served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan as a flight surgeon with the Special Operations Aviation Regiment, the unit that flew in the Navy SEALs who killed Osama bin Laden.
Matt Thorn, executive director of OutServe-SLDN, an legal aide group for gays, said, “Serving as Secretary of the Army is an incredible and vital role to the success of our modern military. Mark Green did not live up to the duty and honor that is expected of an individual serving in such a role. Mr. Green has better served the Army with his withdrawal than he would have as Secretary.”
Mr. Green was Mr. Trump’s second pick for Army secretary to pull out. In February, Vincent Viola withdrew after a restructuring of his family businesses could not satisfy Pentagon ethics officials.