- A US Army officer is being investigated after a TikTok video of him making disparaging remarks about Jews and the Holocaust surfaced on social media.
- The video appears to show 2nd Lt. Nathan Freihofer, who amassed nearly 3 million TikTok followers, saying he would not be verified on the app due to the nature of his “dark jokes.”
- Freihofer goes on to say that a “Jewish person’s favorite Pokémon character” is Ash, the name of the protagonist in the popular cartoon and video game series, in a reference to the Nazi’s extermination of 6 million European Jews as part of the Holocaust.
- David Lapan, a former Defense Department spokesman, told Insider the video was distasteful.
- “It is a glaring example of what the military services try to avoid in social media,” Lapan told Insider. “On the one hand, we encourage service members to use social media, but to do so responsibly and in ways that reflect positively on their service. This video fails.”
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
A US Army officer is being investigated after a TikTok video of him making disparaging remarks about Jews and the Holocaust surfaced on social media.
“We are investigating reports of a Soldier assigned to XVIII Airborne Corps allegedly making vile remarks on a social media video,” the North Carolina-based XVIII Airborne Corps confirmed in a statement. “The statement made in the video is completely inconsistent with our values. We will review all facts and take appropriate action.”
In a separate statement, the Georgia-based 3rd Infantry Division also confirmed it was launching an investigation of the “vile remarks” from the TikTok video, adding that the officer was “suspended of any and all leadership authorities effective immediately.”
The video appears to show 2nd Lt. Nathan Freihofer, who amassed nearly 3 million TikTok followers and over 135 million “likes” on his account, saying he could not be verified on the app due to the nature of his “dark jokes.”
Freihofer goes on to say that a “Jewish person’s favorite Pokémon character” is Ash, the name of the protagonist in the popular cartoon and video game series. At the end of the short video, Freihofer proclaims “if you get offended, get the f— out, because it’s a joke.”
“Don’t be a pussy,” Freihofer added.
—Paul Szoldra (@PaulSzoldra) August 31, 2020
Freihofer did not appear in uniform during the video, but other clips on his account shows him performing military tasks in fatigues.
Freihofer is likely a new soldier in the Army. Second lieutenants are the most junior rank for newly-commissioned officers in the Army and typically have less than two years of service. The officers command platoon-size groups of roughly 16 to 44 soldiers.
Freihofer did not respond to a request for comment Monday. His TikTok account has since been removed.
Public response to the viral video, which was first uploaded by Task & Purpose editor-in-chief Paul Szoldra on Monday, was swift.
“This is completely unacceptable,” Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael Grinston, the senior-most enlisted soldier in the service, said on Twitter. “On social media or not, racist jokes are racist. Period.”
David Lapan, a former Defense Department spokesman, concurred with Grinston’s assessment and told Insider the video was distasteful.
“It is a glaring example of what the military services try to avoid in social media,” Lapan told Insider. “On the one hand, we encourage service members to use social media, but to do so responsibly and in ways that reflect positively on their service. This video fails.”
Lapan added that despite Freihofer’s likely nascent career in the military, his lack of experience was not an excuse for the tone in the video.
“Quite simply, in the military, we have high expectations and place a lot of responsibility on people of a very young age,” Lapan said. “We enlist people in the military at 17 years old. But as part of their training process, again, they are inculcated with the values of the particular service.”
“We teach them what things are appropriate and inappropriate because at the end of the day, being in the military means you might have to use deadly force against people,” Lapan added. “You might be faced with very difficult and life-altering decisions at 17, 18, 19 years old.”
The military has struggled with the proliferation of unflattering TikTok videos that have emerged on numerous social media apps, many of them containing service members wearing a uniform, or half-dressed in one. In one recent TikTok video, two US Army soldiers appeared to dance to rapper Cardi B’s song “WAP,” prompting fierce backlash from a predominately male audience.
The US military officially banned the use of the app for its troops, regardless of whether they appeared in videos wearing a uniform, citing concerns with its ownership of the China-based technology firm, ByteDance. President Donald Trump has railed against TikTok and claimed that ByteDance “might take action that threatens to impair the national security of the United States.”
In 2019, Gen. David Berger, the US Marine Corps commandant, said that criticism for a service members’ use of Chinese-owned apps like TikTok should be directed against the military’s leadership, rather than the individual troops. Berger added that the younger generation of troops had a “clearer view” of the technology “than most people give them credit for.”
“That said, I’d give us a ‘C-minus’ or a ‘D’ in educating the force on the threat of even technology,” Berger said. “Because they view it as two pieces of gear, ‘I don’t see what the big deal is.'”
“That’s not their fault. That’s on us,” Berger added. “Once they begin to understand the risks, what the impact to them is tactically … then it becomes clear. I don’t blame them for that. This is a training and education that we have to do.”
Madison Hall contributed reporting.