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Saturday, June 3, 2023

Tuberville’s top aide on military an ex-food writer, sold bacon and dated a Miss Alabama

When Sen. Tommy Tuberville was developing his response to the Defense Department’s policies expanding abortion access, he turned to a former Birmingham-Southern College graduate who once sold bacon and dated a Miss Alabama.

Morgan Murphy, the senator’s national security advisor, has lived a life reminiscent of Forrest Gump.

In 1994, the Birmingham native was editor-in-chief of The Hilltop News, BSC’s student paper, when Murphy said he put a nude photo on the front page for Breast Cancer Awareness Month that caught the eye of a certain media mogul.

“Rupert Murdoch saw the issue and said, ‘Whoever the kid is editing that paper, I’ll give him a job.’ That kid was Morgan,” Murphy’s website bio states. “He landed an internship with The New York Post.”

While in New York City, Murphy joined the U.S. Navy Reserves as an ensign — a path that would ultimately lead him to Tuberville’s office.

But first, Murphy returned home to work for Southern Living, where he was executive editor, travel editor, food critic and national spokesman for the Birmingham-based publication.

,Murphy then published a cookbook, “Off the Eaten Path: Favorite Southern Dives and 150 Recipes That Made Them Famous.”

“I drew on my food experience at Southern Living — all of my favorite restaurants over the years that I always wanted to give more ink to,” Murphy told AL.com’s Bob Carlton in 2011.

“To be honest with you, I wanted some of the recipes probably as bad as the reader,” he adds. “They are my favorite dishes, and I always wanted to be able to make them at home.

“So it was a good excuse to pry some great recipes out of restaurant owners.”

The book was followed by a sequel, “Second Helpings” and a third entry in the series, “On the Road Again.”

In 2017, Murphy launched a line of bacon called Victory Bacon, but the business failed, he told the Washington Post in a profile published Friday.

The Tuberville aide also divulged some colorful anecdotes for the profile, including claiming he dated a Miss Alabama and drew the admiration of her chaperone.

“She told me of all the ‘Miss Alabama’ boyfriends, I was always her favorite,” he told the Post about the chaperone, Nan Tannenbaum.

When a Post reporter dialed Tanenbaum to fact check Murphy’s story, Tannenbaum said Murphy was nice but doubted she said he was her favorite.

“I don’t know what to say about that one,” Murphy told the reporter. “Maybe she didn’t.”

His family’s public relations business, which was reliant on hotel clients, was struggling amid the coronavirus pandemic when Murphy was recalled to active duty to work in the defense secretary’s office during the Trump administration. He ran the Pentagon’s social media presence.

Murphy’s responsibilities grew, eventually becoming a de facto press secretary, according to the Post profile.

Although Murphy was told his job would be safe despite President Biden winning the 2020 election, he said he left, concerned that colleagues resented his rise and that his duties would be curtailed under a Democratic president.

“I was just a reservist who had come in and within a week had been given a job overseeing social media and within three months had been given the job as press secretary,” he told the Post. “There were a lot of full-time, active-duty people who looked at me like: who is this guy? Why did they hire him? Why does he get to go to Africa? Why does he get to go to China? They were jealous, really. I would have been too had I been toiling away at the Pentagon and some huckleberry from Alabama, some damn food critic, comes in and gets to be press secretary. I’d be pissed too.”

That’s when Murphy eventually linked up with Tuberville, who took office in 2019.

“Getting to advise Coach is great,” Murphy told the Post. “He has never contradicted me. He trusts me to help make decisions and that’s gratifying.”

As the senator’s national security advisor, Murphy presented Tuberville with a list of options on what to do about the Defense Department’s abortion policies.

Tuberville ultimately chose to put a hold on more than 180 military nominations, which have been criticized by both Democratic leaders and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

“I told him at the beginning that he was going to be hearing from every golf buddy he ever had, ‘Hey, my brother-in-law is up for brigadier general,’” Murphy said in the Post profile. “And sure enough, those calls started. But after people saw he was serious, he got a massive influx of support.”

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