- Nathan Freihofer, a US Army second lieutenant, was suspended of his leadership roles pending an investigation after he uploaded a TikTok video with anti-Semitic remarks.
- Freihofer claimed in the video he was making a joke.
- Freihofer, who amassed nearly 3 million followers on TikTok before his account was deactivated, received support from his fans.
- Fans have claimed the Army was being unnecessarily harsh against Freihofer, and that the organization was selectively enforcing its social media policy.
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Nathan Freihofer, the US Army second lieutenant who was suspended after he uploaded a TikTok video with anti-Semitic remarks, has garnered the support of his online followers, many of whom appeared to be in or previously served in the US military.
In the video, Freihofer, who had nearly 3 million followers on TikTok and over 135 million “likes,” lamented he could not be verified on the app due to the nature of his “dark jokes.”
Freihofer went on to give an example that made light of the Holocaust, the Nazi-led genocide during World War II that killed millions of Jews.
A “Jewish person’s favorite Pokémon character” is Ash, Freihofer said in the short video, referring to the name of the protagonist in the popular cartoon, and the Nazi extermination camps in which Jews of all nationalities were killed and burned. Freihofer then proclaimed, “If you get offended, get the f— out, because it’s a joke.”
“Don’t be a p—y,” Freihofer added.
Shortly after his video was shared throughout social media outlets on Monday, Freihofer’s TikTok account was removed.
Freihofer did not appear in uniform during the video, but other clips on his account shows him performing military tasks in fatigues.
Individual US Army commands and leaders have since condemned the video and launched an investigation.
“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 Freihofer was immediately suspended of “all leadership authorities.”
Second lieutenants are the most junior rank for newly commissioned officers in the Army and typically have less than two years of service. These officers command platoon-size groups of roughly 16 to 44 soldiers.
Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael Grinston, the senior-most enlisted soldier in the service, also tweeted of the video: “This is completely unacceptable. On social media or not, racist jokes are racist. Period.”
An Army spokesman told Insider on Tuesday it was not regulating Freihofer’s personal social media accounts, citing “free speech” concerns. The organization did not immediately answer if it had ordered Freihofer to deactivate his TikTok account.
‘Use social media to stay connected and tell the Army’s story’
Freihofer’s fans on social media have offered their support for the TikTok enthusiast, who regularly posted videos of his workouts and other trendy themes that mirrored the content of YouTube celebrities.
Some of his fans appeared to have served in the US military and accused the Army of acting too harshly against Freihofer, while neglecting the spate of missing or dead soldiers who were stationed at Ft. Hood, Texas, or failing to enforce its social media policy for other military service members.
A petition on Change.org addressed to President Donald Trump is on track to surpass 5,000 signatories as of Tuesday afternoon.
“As fans of Mr. Freihofer … I believe he had lifted many of his fans out of rough times and simply made us laugh, [sic] we all realize the mistake that was made and deeply regret it,” the petition said.
“I never thought his jokes or ability to spread happiness was related to or represented the US Army,” one person commented in the petition.
Despite his TikTok account being deactivated, Freihofer still appeared to be active on social media platforms like Snapchat. He did not respond to a request for comment.
A Twitter account with the screenname “@NathanFreihofer” also began liking and retweeting tweets that were sympathetic to him. It was unclear if Freihofer had ownership of the Twitter account; however, it was created at least two weeks before his TikTok video went viral on social media.
The incident presents a case study of the Army’s struggle to regulate its service members’s social use.
The US military officially banned TikTok 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. Trump and Republican lawmakers have railed against the company and argued it “might take action that threatens to impair the national security of the United States.”
Although the ban against TikTok was in effect since 2019, US service members continued to create content on the app, many of them appearing in uniform. Some of the TikTok videos sparked backlash for its alleged suggestive content, including one where US Army soldiers danced to rapper Cardi B’s song “WAP,” an acronym for “wet-ass p—y.”
The Army notes in numerous policy directives that “social media plays a very important role in our lives,” adding that it “encourages Soldiers and their Families to use social media to stay connected and tell the Army’s story.”
While it encourages its soldiers to use social media, it stipulates that the activity must be “in a manner that is consistent with Army values and standards of conduct.”
“It is important that all Soldiers know that when they are logged on to a social media platform, they still represent the US Army,” the Army says on a notice for social media use. “Soldiers using social media must abide by the [Uniform Code of Military Justice] at all times, even when off duty.”
The notice adds that online misconduct includes “any other types of misconduct that undermine dignity and respect.”
Official Army regulations state that a soldier is “responsible for content they publish on all personal and public internet domains to include social media sites,” and notes that a punishment for a social media infraction may range from a military discharge “for unsatisfactory performance or misconduct,” to other “disciplinary action deemed appropriate by the commander.”
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