FIRST ON FOX: Senate Commerce Committee ranking member Ted Cruz, R-Texas, demanded answers from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA) head regarding the academy’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) director’s series of racially-charged tweets.
Cruz sent the letter to USMMA Superintendent Joanna Nunan late Wednesday regarding Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) director Anton Tripolskii, who came under fire last month for racially-charged tweets attacking White people.
In the letter, Cruz recognized the academy’s “vital role in training future U.S. military officers and mariners” and that he is “proud to have recommended many Texans” for appointment to the USMMA.
“These current appointees and their fellow cadets are owed a safe environment to study, learn, and train,” Cruz wrote.
“However, recently discovered statements from the USMMA’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (‘SAPR’) office director have raised serious questions about USMMA’s commitment to cadet safety and about the Academy’s culture overall,” he continued.
The Texas Republican wrote that Tripolskii’s “remarks in question were at best offensive and at worst nothing short of full-on racism” and “raise genuine concerns about whether the SAPR office can promote and ensure an environment that is free from sexual misconduct for all cadets.”
“Furthermore, since these remarks occurred prior to the director’s hiring, I have a number of questions about the USMMA’s hiring process,” Cruz said, going on to note that the academy “has struggled for many years with issues of sexual assault and harassment.”
“According to USMMA’s annual reports on sexual assault and harassment, there were 69 cases of sexual assault reported to USMMA during academic years 2012 through 2023. Over the past five years, eight sexual assault cases reported to USMMA involved a male victim, amounting to over one-fifth of all reported cases during that time span.”
Cruz noted that the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act required the USMMA to bring on a SAPR coordinator full-time that would be under the watch of the program director. The senator also highlighted that “there have been major gaps” in the academy fulfilling the requirement, “including an eight-month period in 2019 when there was no SAPR coordinator at USMMA.”
“Given the important role the SAPR office plays in ensuring the safety of cadets—a role that Congress recognized by mandating that USMMA employ a full-time SAPR coordinator—it is essential that the Academy carefully recruit, vet, and hire SAPR office staff who can fairly and effectively advance the office’s mission,” Cruz wrote.
The senator wrote that Tripolskii had published a “litany of public statements indicating racial and gender bias,” noting the director’s tweet from June 6, 2020 — as the nation was reeling amid violent riots after the murder of George Floyd — where he wrote Americans “don’t have forces who do right by survivors of intimate partner and sexual violence because we don’t have forces who don’t abuse Brown and Black people. Same forces, same reasons. Misogyny and racism grow from the same white, male root.”
“Mr. Tripolskii’s statements are troubling for obvious reasons. They are both bigoted and objectively false,” Cruz wrote. “It is empirically inaccurate to claim that the sole source of misogyny and racism are white males, and for cadets who happen to fall into those categories, it is difficult to see how they could believe they would be treated fairly by Mr. Tripolskii.”
“Moreover, historical data shows that in previous years, both male and female cadets have reported being victims of sexual assault and harassment at the Academy,” he continued. “In fact, one of the most recent high-profile sexual assault cases at USMMA involved multiple freshman male cadets who were sexually assaulted during hazing by upperclassmen on the Academy’s soccer team.”
Cruz pointed out that cadets “who are victims of sexual assault or harassment are directed to contact the office that Mr. Tripolskii leads.” Cruz asserted that it “stands to reason that his discriminatory statements may, at a minimum, make some cadets less likely to trust USMMA’s SAPR office, report sexual assault and harassment, and seek assistance.”
“Even in circumstances where a cadet reports sexual assault or harassment, they may not be confident that Mr. Tripolskii’s investigative reports will be free of his own discriminatory biases,” the Texas senator wrote. “The worst outcome would be if Mr. Tripolskii’s personal views about gender or race prejudice a complaint or investigation and lead to a criminal evading justice.”
“The mishandling of an investigation or the reluctance of a cadet to report an assault would jeopardize the safety of all cadets at USMMA,” Cruz added.
Cruz peppered Nunan with a long list of questions, including whether the academy teaches cadets “that ‘[m]isogyny and racism’ are the fault of a single racial group” and if Tripolskii has received any disciplinary action for his public statements.
The USMMA did not respond to Fox News Digital’s request for comment on the letter.