Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) has sent a letter to the Acting Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy regarding Second Lieutenant Spenser Rapone, whose social media posts caused outrage for his vulgar criticisms of elected officials and endorsements of communism and political violence. In the letter, Rubio sharply criticizes Rapone’s posts, calls for the Army to “immediately nullify Rapone’s commission” and said West Point “should consider revoking his degree.”
Last month, Rapone was identified as the owner of a Twitter account @punkproletarian, nicknamed “Commie BeBop.” The account’s tweets are now protected, but still shows images of communist flags and Rapone describes himself as a “Commie” in the bio.
Some of Rapone’s controversial posts include photographs of him in his West Point uniform, one showing the phrase “COMMUNISM WILL WIN” written under his hat while Rapone posed with a raised fist, and another showing him unbuttoning his uniform jacket to reveal a t-shirt of Che Guevara. Rapone also tweeted vulgar comments referring to Vice President Mike Pence as “a f***ing medieval, cold-blooded killer,” and Secretary of Defense James Mattis as “the most vile, evil f*** in the current administration.” Another tweet stated, “F*** John McCain. Will happily dance on his grave.”
Article 88 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice prohibits commissioned officers of the U.S. military from using “contemptuous words against the President, the Vice President, Congress, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of a military department, the Secretary of Transportation, or the Governor or legislature of any State, Territory, Commonwealth, or possession in which he is on duty or present.” The maximum punishment possible is dismissal from the military, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and a year imprisonment.
According to the Daily Caller, Rapone had originally applied to West Point as a high school student, and his application was nominated by then-Rep. Jason Altmire (D-PA). Rapone was originally rejected, enlisted in the Army, deployed to Afghanistan, and then reapplied to West Point, at which time he was admitted.
Both former Rep. Altmire and Rapone’s own father, a local elected official in Pennsylvania, have criticized his comments, and the Army has opened an investigation into him.
In Rubio’s letter to McCarthy, the Senator described how Rapone “has publically and vulgarly derided the secretary of defense, advocated for communism while in uniform and political violence in general, and expressed support and sympathy for enemies of the United States, including Chelsea Manning, a convicted traitor,” conduct which “clearly violates multiple Army regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice.”
“Additional posts on social media by Rapone broadcast his devotion to the communist cause and his plans to infiltrate and sabotage the military,” continued Rubio. “His conduct, writings, and sympathies for American adversaries predates his commission in the Army.”
He then called for the Army to immediately revoke Rapone’s commission, require him to pay back the cost of his education, and for West Point to revoke his degree. Rubio also asked for information regarding what the Army knew about Rapone before he attended West Point, and what measures were being taken to assure that others with such “anti-American views” are not admitted in the future.
Dear Secretary McCarthy:
It has been brought to my attention that United States Army Second Lieutenant Spenser Rapone acted in a manner unbecoming of a United States Military Academy Cadet and subsequently a commissioned officer.
As you may know, Rapone has publically and vulgarly derided the secretary of defense, advocated for communism while in uniform and political violence in general, and expressed support and sympathy for enemies of the United States, including Chelsea Manning, a convicted traitor. This clearly violates multiple Army regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
Additional posts on social media by Rapone broadcast his devotion to the communist cause and his plans to infiltrate and sabotage the military. His conduct, writings, and sympathies for American adversaries predates his commission in the Army. Therefore, I respectfully request the United States Army immediately nullify Rapone’s commission and pursue all available disciplinary options under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Rapone should be required to pay back in full the cost of his education and the United States Military Academy should consider revoking his degree.
It is extremely concerning that someone who so often expressed such hostile views towards the United States’ system of government was able to obtain a commission. Rapone’s revolutionary ideas were harbored long before he was commissioned as an Army Second Lieutenant. Were West Point administrators or faculty aware of his views and behavior?
While I strongly believe academic institutions must respect the exchange of ideas and allow students to voice their opinions, members of the military who harbor anti-American views and express their desire to harm our country and its leaders are unfit to serve and defend our nation—and certainly should not enjoy the privilege of attending or graduating from an institution such as West Point, a taxpayer-funded military academy.
This is clearly not just a matter of law but also of common sense, and I can only assume Rapone’s unchecked behavior is an extreme embarrassment for the United States Army and the United States Military Academy. Please provide me with all relevant information regarding West Point’s efforts to ensure cadets who actively support the destruction of our government do not waste more taxpayer funds or prevent a more worthy candidate from attending an institution like the United States Military Academy. The Army’s premier officer commissioning source must ensure an individual like Spenser Rapone is never given the opportunity to lead or serve beside American soldiers.
I respectfully ask for a response on these issues within the next 30 days. Thank you for your consideration and I look forward to working with you on these matters.
Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter: @rumpfshaker.