Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL) found himself in hot water Tuesday morning after Think Progress publicized a 54-second clip from a town hall meeting he held Sunday, where he seemingly criticized his political opponent (who lost both her legs in Iraq) as being too braggadocios about her military service.
Walsh began the controversial explanation by saying that, whether or not you liked John McCain last election, he was a hero:
"But understand something about John McCain. His political advisers, day after day, had to take him and almost throw him against a wall and hit him against the head and say, 'Senator, you have to let people know you served! You have to talk about what you did!' He didn’t want to do it, wouldn’t do it. Day after day they had to convince him. Finally, he talked a little bit about it, but it was very uncomfortable for him. That’s what’s so noble about our heroes."
Immediately after, Walsh continued:
"Now I’m running against a woman who-- I mean my God, that’s all she talks about. Our true heroes, the men and women who have served us, it’s the last thing in the world they talk about. That’s why we are so indebted and in awe of what they’ve done."
Walsh's opponent Tammy Duckworth chose to become a helicopter pilot because, she told USA Today, "she wanted to take the same risks as the guys." Over her twenty-year service, she has reportedly received a Purple Heart, an Air Medal, and an Army Commendation Medal, and achieved the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.
Watch the offending clip, via Think Progress, below:
Now, "Vote Vets" and a number of other groups are calling for Walsh to resign, saying: “Telling a veteran to shut up on the 4th of July is beyond the pale.”
Read their complete statement, via Think Progress, below:
Joe Walsh’s disgust for our veterans’ sacrifices knows no bounds. First, he falsely and maliciously claims that Tammy Duckworth, a veteran who lost her legs in Iraq didn’t have much of a record of service. Now, he denigrates that same American hero for talking about how her experience shaped her worldview and strengthened her resolve to serve even more – a conversation that isn’t just legitimate to have, but crucial as America charts its course domestically and internationally. This is a new low for this deadbeat dad. Telling a veteran to shut up on the 4th of July is beyond the pale. We are past the point of calling on Joe Walsh to apologize. He should step aside and and stop embarrassing his district and America.
The "deadbeat dad" description is likely a reference to the fact that, at one point, Walsh reportedly owed his ex-wife $100,000 in back child support. His children are 24, 21, and 17, and the former couple reportedly resolved the matter in court.
Walsh's office has issued this response:
“Of course Tammy Duckworth is a hero. I have called her a hero 100’s of times in the past four months. Just like every man and woman who has worn the uniform, her service demands — demands — our utmost respect. That’s why I recognize our veterans at the beginning of every one of my public town halls. However, unlike most veterans I have had the honor to meet since my election to Congress, who rarely if ever talk about their service or the combat they’ve seen, that is darn near all of what Tammy Duckworth talks about. Her service demands our thanks and our respect but not our vote. She is running for Congress — and there are real problems in this country like our massive debt, high unemployment and the Obamacare tax. We are about four months from Election Day and the people of Illinois have no idea where Tammy Duckworth stands on these issues because she dodges debate requests, ignores our invitations to speak at town halls, refuses to talk about solutions and constantly reminds voters of her war service. Our thoughts and prayers will always be with her for her service and her loss but these are serious times and the people of Illinois deserve to know what she thinks about real issues and what she will do as a Congresswoman.”
Watch the 15-minute version of the clip, below. While it's clear that Walsh moves on to take questions after the offending statement, the clip does seem to cut off some of his introductory remarks.