Tommy (What Racism?) Tuberville Changes His Tune (Wink-Wink) On White Nationalism


Sen. Tommy Tuberville's official Senate portrait

After a week of pressure, Alabama Republican Senator and former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville reluctantly told a reporter late yesterday that “White nationalists are racists.” Tuberville had insisted in a series of interviews that white nationalists weren’t racist, they were instead just plain old “Americans.”

Tuberville claimed his comments had been misinterpreted after telling an Alabama radio station in May that “Democrats portray all Trump people as white nationalists. There’s a lot of good people that are Trump supporters that for some reason my Democratic colleagues want to portray as white nationalists. That’s not true.” Asked by the radio host what he meant, Tuberville claimed that white nationalists “have different beliefs.”

Here's where the wink-and-a-nod comes in. Tuberville went on to assure his interviewer, “But if racism is one of those beliefs, I’m totally against it. I am totally against racism.” Got that? “If” racism is afoot in the land among his white nationalist supporters, he’s against it. Everyone in Alabama who bought that one could fit in the back booth of a Dairy Queen at midnight on a Monday.

It’s a time-honored trick many diehard “lost cause” Southerners have played for years. They’re good-citizen opponents of racism until they sit down at the dinner table and start complaining about the n---rs who were in line at the Walmart taking up too much time fumbling around trying to find their newfangled food stamp card. Tuberville told another interviewer recently he couldn’t be a racist…wait for it…because some of his best friends are Black. And of course he had all those really fast Black guys playing for him at Auburn. There were no Black players on the Auburn football team until 1969. Tuberville was the coach there between 1999 and 2008.

Soon after Tuberville was elected to the United States Senate, he earned the distinction of being the only senator who identified the three branches of government incorrectly as “the Senate, the House, and the Executive.” (The right answer, as spelled out in the Constitution, is the legislature, judiciary, and executive.) Earlier this year, Tuberville announced that “a society that allows abortion up to and past the moment of birth, after the baby has been born, isn't progressive. It's barbaric and it's murder." Abortions are usually performed in the first trimester of a pregnancy when a fetus is still in the womb.

Ignorance about biology is not an excuse for racism any more than it’s an excuse for forcing your religious beliefs on women by passing laws that make them carry a baby to term even if that child was conceived in rape or incest. Tommy Tuberville is not an exception or special case in the Deep South. He was elected to the Senate in Alabama because of his wink-and-a-nod racism and sexism, not in spite of it.

The state of Alabama had a governor, George Wallace, who infamously stood in the door of an auditorium trying to prevent the integration of the University of Alabama. In the late 1970’s, he apologized to Black civil rights leaders for his years as a segregationist. He announced that his infamous stand in the schoolhouse door was “wrong,” and that “those days are over, and they ought to be over.” He later asked for forgiveness from the Black citizens of Alabama. In his fourth term as governor, he appointed a record number of Black people to positions in the Alabama state government, including two to his cabinet.

Tuberville was asked by a Senate colleague to apologize for his statements defending white nationalists. He refused. In George Wallace’s day, you could get elected after apologizing for your racist past. However, in the MAGA world of Tommy Tuberville and Defendant Trump, those days are over in Alabama.

Lucian K. Truscott IV, a graduate of West Point, has had a 50-year career as a journalist, novelist, and screenwriter. He has covered Watergate, the Stonewall riots, and wars in Lebanon, Iraq, and Afghanistan. He is also the author of five bestselling novels. You can subscribe to his daily columns at and follow him on Twitter @LucianKTruscott and on Facebook at Lucian K. Truscott IV.

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