Tennessee 5th Congressional District candidate and former Tennessee National Guard General Kurt Winstead aligned with Governor Bill Lee’s inaction and disinformation on the guardsmen firings due to their refusal to accept the COVID-19 vaccine shot Thursday.
“I believe that the governor is working behind the scenes, doing everything in his power to help the Tennessee National Guard – no question in my mind,” said Winstead In an interview conducted by Matt Murphy on SuperTalk 99.7 fm WTN.
Winstead defended Lee’s inaction, insisting that there was nothing the governor can do to help the guardsmen, and that only the federal government can take action.
Winstead asserted, “The thing about it is – I explained earlier – this is a federal decision. It’s controlled by the federal government through the Department of Defense. The Department of Defense is responsible for the training and preparation of all soldiers, whether they be active or reservists or National Guard. That is part of this mandated vaccine program. I disagree with the mandate the federal government [unintelligible].”
“They have the purse strings, Matt. The federal government pays, through the National Guard, all the National Guardsmen, all the reservists, all the active Army are paid through the federal government. The purse strings are owned by the federal government. That’s why this is a difficult situation. It’s not a decision that the governor can make,” Winstead added.
However, as the commander in chief of the Tennessee Army National Guard the governor does have the authority to act in support of those soldiers who have refused the COVID-19 vaccine, if he chose to.
One National Guard member who heard the interview told The Tennessee Star, “What a crock of [expletive]! Winstead knows better. Winstead knows that Governor Lee can ask the AG Slatery to sue the federal government. He also knows better than most that Lee is the commander-in-chief of the Tennessee National Guard. He knows that Governor Lee has several options he can pursue. If the former general cared about the soldiers instead of trying to get yet another government salary, he’d have said so.”
Another guardsman told The Star, “The former General has abandoned the men and women he served with. He couldn’t even be bothered to show up in support of the guardsmen who are losing their jobs at the event on Wednesday. He’s probably cozying up to Governor Lee in the hopes of an endorsement for his campaign. It is just sad. Winstead is an abject disappointment.”
“It’s so frustrating that he refused to even explain that just because the FUNDS come from the federal government, the state has the CONTROL over those funds. Winstead KNOWS that under Title 32, the state maintains control and the Governor is the Commander-in-Chief,” the guardsman added.
Murphy had asked Winstead to comment on Governor Lee’s inaction, saying, “It’s impossible not to notice the level of silence that’s coming out of his [Governor Lee’s] office. I mean, do you feel like he’s working behind the scenes? Do you get any sense that he’s ready to take a position on this at this late stage?”
The Star previously reported that The Star reached out to Winstead’s campaign for comment because of his status as a retired brigadier general in the Tennessee National Guard. Winstead’s campaign team gave a tepid response to The Star’s outreach.
Winstead stated opposition to the dismissal, but neglected to call for any action in support of the Guard members’ jobs.
“General Winstead retired in February 2021 prior to the vaccines being mandatory for military members. He opposes the dismissal of military members due to COVID-19 vaccine refusal. The COVID-19 vaccine for military members was a federal decision by the Biden administration and as a member of Congress, General Winstead will fight President Biden on any burdensome, unnecessary COVID-19 restrictions,” the campaign said at the time.
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Aaron Gulbransen is a reporter at The Tennessee Star and The Star News Network. Email tips to [email protected]. Follow Aaron on GETTR, Twitter, Truth Social, and Parler.
Photo “Kurt Winstead and Bill Lee” by Kurt Winstead.