Pete Hegseth on lady soldiers: "You don't want to have to deal with Matt's feelings toward Mary"

Hegseth doesn't like the idea of women serving in combat roles.
Hegseth doesn't like the idea of women serving in combat roles.

Yesterday, in a surprising move, outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta signed an order allowing women to partake in armed combat for the first time in American history.

SEE ALSO: Decorated war vet Pete Hegseth seeking GOP endorsement to challenge Klobuchar [VIDEO]

Panetta's move had the strong support of President Obama and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, but it didn't sit well with Pete Hegseth, the 32-year-old veteran and Fox News personality who has been mentioned as a possible Republican challenger to Al Franken in 2014.

First, here's some background on Panetta's order (via the LA Times):

In many respects, removing the last legal gender barrier in America's armed forces falls into the same category as the desegregation of the military after World War II. Panetta's order transforms an institution that had excluded women from some of the most dangerous jobs -- and thus blocked them from promotion to higher ranks...

In briefings and in trips by panel members to Iraq, Panetta noticed the increasing role that female soldiers and Marines played in the conflict, according to an aide. When Obama named him to head the CIA in 2009, women comprised nearly half of the agency's workforce and were playing key roles in many counter-terrorism operations, including the hunt for Bin Laden. Panetta was also deeply affected by a suicide attack on a CIA base in eastern Afghanistan in December 2009 that killed seven officers, including two women, an aide said.

When he arrived at the Pentagon in July 2011, Congress already had repealed the so-called "don't ask, don't tell" law that barred gays and lesbians from serving openly. It fell to Panetta to formally end that ban, which the Marine commandant and several other senior officers initially wanted to preserve...

"One of my priorities ... has been to remove as many barriers as possible for dedicated and qualified people to be able to serve their country in uniform," [Panetta] told reporters at the Pentagon minutes before signing the order.

Panetta's order was a topic of conversation during Hegseth's appearance on Megyn Kelly's Fox News show yesterday. The Star Tribune shares some of the back-and-forth:

"You know how these things work when integration happens," said Hegseth, who briefly put his hat in the GOP ring last year to challenge U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (who has endorsed outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta's plan). "If it doesn't happen fast enough, what do you do? You start to lower the bar, or you start to impose quotas."

Hegseth, a Forest Lake native and Princeton grad who made a name for himself as head of the Iraq War era Vets for Freedom, also raised the issue of distracting battlefield romances. "It's another variable that, as a platoon leader or a squad leader, you don't want to have to deal with 'Matt's' feelings toward 'Mary.'"

Kelly, pointing to the presence of gays in the military, shot back: "'Matt' may have been having feelings toward 'Mike' for a long time in the foxhole, and the military has been doing okay."...

Hegseth [said] that the military's mission is not to guarantee equality, but victory. "The end state of the military is not equality," he said. "It is the ability to fight and win wars."

If Hegseth is serious about a 2014 run, remarks like that won't help him with women, and he'll need all the help he can get. According to a survey released earlier this week by Public Policy Polling, Franken, with a 52 percent approval rating, is "in good shape" and "does not appear to be among the more vulnerable incumbent Senators."

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