FLORENCE — Make no mistake about it: Former Auburn head football coach Tommy Tuberville does not hold back when something is on his mind, and Saturday morning he backed up that reputation that has followed him from his coaching career and into politics.
During an appearance before a meeting of the Shoals Republican Club, Tuberville, a candidate in the 2020 U.S. Senate election in Alabama, delivered a wide-ranging stem-winder reiterating his alignment with President Donald Trump on many issues. However, Tuberville argued there were areas where even Trump needed to be better.
The Muscle Shoals appearance was the first of a series in the area that also included stops at the Cornerstone Church of Christ in Florence with former University of Alabama standout cornerback Antonio Langham to raise money for children in Haiti and another at the Shoals Chamber of Commerce in Florence, where he fielded questions during a town hall-style event.
Near the entrance of the venue for the morning Shoals Republican Club event, someone posted a printed-out photo of Tuberville that was adjoined by the dictionary definition of the word “carpetbagger,” a label given to Tuberville by some of his opponents.
Although he did not acknowledge the posting, he did address the “carpetbagger” label and seemed to embrace it by calling himself a “carpetbagger of this country.”
“Yes, I’m not an everyday resident of Alabama,” Tuberville said. “That’s going to be brought up. I’ve been here most of the last 20 years. I’ve had property. So, you’ll see that on TV – ‘He’s a carpetbagger.’ Yeah, I’m a carpetbagger of this country. I love this country. I love this state. I’m a carpetbagger. I pay a lot of taxes. I brag about that because I’m fortunate I’ve made a little money in my lifetime. I can do this and not take any money.”
As far as his critique of the current commander-in-chief, Tuberville focused on military veterans’ health care, primarily the problems plaguing the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. However, Tuberville added a caveat to his remarks by noting he did not think Trump was getting much help.
“I’m pissed off at Donald Trump that our vets can’t get health care,” he said. “And if I ever get to see him, I’m going to tell him that. You said you were going to fix it and it ain’t fixed. And that’s who we ought to be taking care of — these young men and women. I’ve had them come up to me and cry. ‘Coach, we can’t get health care. Nobody will take care of us.’ 22 vets every day – every day are committing suicide. We can’t take care of them. We won’t take care of them. We’re paying for illegals to come over here – everything they’re getting: cell phones, health care, everything they want. That’s Donald Trump’s fault. That’s his fault. He’s got to get it done. That’s one of the most important things I think we need to do because we send young men and women over to fight for us, put their life on the line and we don’t take care of them? What are we doing? What are we doing?”
“I’m a Donald Trump guy, but there are things that he hasn’t done yet that we got to get done,” he continued. “And I think he’s had to fight every battle by himself. He can’t get to all of them because nobody is helping him. Nobody is standing up for him.”
Tuberville argued Republicans on Capitol Hill could do more and vowed to be more outspoken as a U.S. Senator. He also took aim at Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT), who is a vocal critic of Trump.
“Sooner or later, we’re going to start sending people up there that will call the kettle black, OK?” Tuberville said. “You’re looking at one. You hear me right now – this is how I feel. I’m even going to be worse than this when I go to Washington, D.C. I’m going to be worse than this, on the Republican side as well as the Democrat side. Somebody has got to tell those Republican, ‘Hey, get a backbone or go home.’”
“Mitt Romney? You’ve got to be kidding me,” he continued. “You’ve got to be kidding me. What country are you for? What are you for? Do you stand for anything? Do you stand for anything? You know, it’s really mind-boggling.”
Immediately after speaking to the Muscle Shoals group, Tuberville departed for the Cornerstone Church of Christ fundraiser. However, Yellowhammer News was able to catch up with Tuberville after his Shoals Chamber of Commerce town hall in Florence to ask follow-up questions about his earlier remarks.
On veterans’ issues:
YH: You are pretty passionate about veterans, and you made a comment about Trump maybe not being as satisfactory in dealing with veterans’ issues. What led you to say that, and what could he do better?
TUBERVILLE: His agenda, he has pretty much tried to follow up on everything, and there’s a couple of things other than that. That’s one of them, and that’s one of the things I’m hearing across the state. They say, “Coach, we love the president, but we’ve got to have something done with the VA.” People are passionate about that. They’re not getting any help, and I don’t know where it’s going to come from.
But the thing with President Trump — he’s got his buckets full, and I can understand that. My point is he is not getting a lot of help from people that also understand the situation. They’re not standing up and speaking out. You know, he could get a lot more help from Congress. Obviously, he is not going to get a lot of help from the Democrats. But I think the Republicans can stand up and push that agenda for him and help him.
That was one of his huge stances when he was running, and I’m starting to hear from people saying, “We’re waiting for it. We’re waiting for help.” And he’s addressed a lot of the situation. He’s having to work his way through bureaucracy.
On the “carpetbagger” label:
YH: The “carpetbagger” question — you came out and said you were a carpetbagger. I don’t know if you were being literal or facetious, but talk about what you were trying to get at there.
TUBERVILLE: They don’t have a lot to come at me with because I don’t have a record of voting. All that I’m going to have a record of is where I’ve lived, where I’ve worked. Fortunately for me, when I left Auburn, I went to other places and worked. That’s what you got to do. You’ve got to get a job. But you know, I’ve had several houses, a farm in Auburn. I knew I was moving back. I chose to move back. I think that’s huge when you choose the place you want to live. And I chose Auburn. I chose Auburn to educate both my kids, most of it 1-12, then obviously college.
I’m just saying, that’s what they’re going to call me. Obviously, I am not. I am a guy that has taken jobs.
I don’t really know what the word means. I’ve just read what they’ve said, and the main thing is that I’ve lived here a majority for the last 20 years and I chose to come back — most of my friends are here. And I hope my two boys move back, so I don’t have to chase them all over the country.
YH: Do you have any idea or suspicions where that charge is coming from, or what the source of it is?
TUBERVILLE: They just know I was bouncing around for the last seven or eight years of coaching at different places. And there’s no doubt about that. I’m on record for living in Ohio and Texas and then moving back here.
Of course, I had to live in Florida when I worked for ESPN just to live next to an airport because I flew all the time. And when I gave that up, I moved back and started looking at retirement then started looking at this position when we had a Democrat elected.
YH: Some of your critics have said you lived in Florida to avoid income tax because Florida doesn’t have an income tax and Alabama does. Is there any truth to that?
TUBERVILLE: No, I don’t need the money. I don’t even know what the difference in tax is, to be honest with you. No, there’s no validity to that at all.
YH: The airport question — the Atlanta airport is what, an hour and a half from Auburn, not too far.
TUBERVILLE: This was about ten minutes, and you fly all the time. Saved a lot of time and effort. I mean, that’s a little bit different than going through that airport. I’ve done that many, many times.
On the effort to back Trump from Romney and other Republican lawmakers:
TUBERVILLE: [Trump] is trying to handle all these situations, and he’s getting zero help from the Democrats. And he’s getting a good percentage of help from the Republicans. But he could probably get more.
You know, that’s the reason I came out and said something about Mitt Romney. There are some good things he’s done. President Trump comes out and supports him. I voted for Mitt Romney when he ran for president.
To me, sometimes these guys could hold back on criticism and not say anything instead of coming out and saying something, especially about the racism deal. He’s our president. We got to back him, and if he’s not going to get backing from Republicans, he’s dang sure not going to get it from other people.
YH: Dealing with your potential future colleagues in the United States Senate, how do you view Mitch McConnell as a leader and perhaps working with Senator [Richard] Shelby, Alabama’s senior senator — do you foresee any problems given your pledge to be your own guy, and in the Senate and especially the Republican caucus, they kind of expect you to go along to get along? How do you feel about that culture there?
TUBERVILLE: You’ve got to work with all of them. The Republicans are going to have 53 or 54 senators. You’ve got to work with all of them, and I think that’s the strong point in selling myself, getting people to trust me.
I’m going to vote for the people of Alabama. I’m not going to vote for a party. I’m going to vote for what’s going to help the people here. I think we’ve gotten away from that some. I think we’ve got to vote the voice of the people, your constituents. If you do that, I think everything else will work together.
I’m not against any of those people up there. I’m a strong Trump guy. I think he needs somebody else. He’s got a lot of people, but somebody that he knows he can count on, to be a voice for him.
Now, am I going to vote for him every time? I’m not going to say that, no.