Updated July 3, 2:33 p.m. ET
Republican Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL), knocked his Democratic opponent Tammy Duckworth — a veteran who lost both of her legs as a helicopter pilot in Iraq — for talking about her military career too much. Discussing her accomplishments, Walsh suggested, meant that Duckworth was not a “true [hero].”
Walsh said at a town hall meeting on Sunday that unlike Duckworth, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) rarely spoke about his military service during the 2008 presidential election — a claim that ignores the thrust of McCain’s campaign and his entire political career.
“That’s what’s so noble about our heroes. Now I’m running against a woman who — I mean, my God, that’s all she talks about,” said Walsh, in video posted by Think Progress. “Our true heroes, it’s the last thing in the world they talk about. Our true heroes, the men and women who 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 have done.”
A spokeswoman for Duckworth said Walsh’s comments were insulting to all veterans. “Congressman Walsh’s comments insult those who sacrificed to make this country free,” campaign manager Kaitlin Fahey said in a statement. “Tammy is proud of her over 20 years of service with the Army and her family’s legacy of fighting for this country. We can’t recognize our servicemen and women enough and ask that we keep them in our thoughts during this holiday week.”
Walsh, a tea party favorite, is facing a more heavily Democratic district thanks to redistricting.
Duckworth served in the National Guard, flying combat missions in Iraq until her helicopter was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade in 2004, resulting in the amputation of both her legs. She lost a bid for Congress in 2006, and was appointed as the state Veterans Affairs director, then assistant Veterans Affairs secretary under President Obama.
Update: Walsh released a statement Tuesday afternoon:
“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.”