The National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), the organization responsible for ensuring Republican candidates’ election to the Senate, is coming under fire for an extremely distasteful tweet that claimed Democratic Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth “has a sad record of not standing up for our veterans.”
Duckworth, challenging Republican incumbent Mark Kirk (R-Il), is a double amputee Iraq war veteran.
And here is the NRSC's stmt RE: their deleted Tammy Duckworth tweet: pic.twitter.com/F8R7121FMR
— Frank Thorp V (@frankthorpNBC) March 8, 2016
The tweet was deleted roughly ten minutes later, but the damage was already done, prompting outrage nationwide over the basic standards of integrity in political campaigning.
Tuesday was also International Women’s Day, a double injustice that many users on Twitter took note of:
— JoEllen Zacks (@JoEllenZacks) March 8, 2016
— Michael Grande (@MichaelGrande4) March 8, 2016
In case you're not familiar, this is Tammy Duckworth pic.twitter.com/9lZiEbnQGu
— Tim Dickinson (@7im) March 8, 2016
Her campaign fired back immediately, and with vigor, calling the tweet “tasteless and dishonest, just like everything else to do with Mark Kirk’s flailing campaign.”
“Tammy has made fighting for veterans her life’s work, and will continue to so in the Senate,” said Matt McGrath, the campaign’s spokesman.
Shortly after the tweet was deleted, the committee acknowledged its error but renewed its attack on Duckworth.
“It would be great if reporters would pay as much attention to a deleted tweet as they should to Tammy Duckworth being sued by VA whistleblowers for ignoring claims of mistreatment and corruption,” said Andrea Bozek, a spokeswoman for the NRSC.
Bozek is referring to a lawsuit filed against Duckworth nearly a decade ago by two employees on behalf of an Illinois veterans home, alleging that Duckworth treated them unfairly during her time leading the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs, claims which Duckworth vehemently denies.
The suit has been dismissed twice so far in court, but a new trial is reportedly (unconfirmed at the time of this publication) scheduled for early April.
In 2004, a rocket-propelled grenade hit the Blackhawk helicopter that Duckworth was piloting. In a 2015 essay for POLITICO Magazine, she wrote that her “right leg was vaporized.”
“My left leg was crushed and shredded against the instrument panel,” she wrote. “My pilot in command miraculously brought down the helicopter safely. I went from being the most senior member on board to the weakest.”
Later that morning after the gaffe, the NRSC put this up as a replacement:
— Republicans (@NRSC) March 8, 2016
Later in the day, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) criticized the NRSC for its statement and called for the group to apologize to Duckworth.
“The NRSC’s deeply offensive tweet about Tammy Duckworth was wrong, and their subsequent response was somehow even more appalling,” DSCC Executive Director Tom Lopach said in a statement.
“Instead of taking responsibility and apologizing to Tammy, who lost both of her legs in service to this country, Republicans blamed the media. That’s unacceptable and Tammy is owed an apology.”
The tweet and its subsequent implications to many in the democratic political establishment was eerily reminiscent of attack ads by Saxby Chambliss in his 2002 campaign against then-incumbent Senator Max Cleland.
In the video Mr. Cleland, a triple-amputee from wounds suffered during his service in Vietnam, is depicted as being unpatriotic and unfit to lead because of his staunch opposition to the pending Iraq War, which would begin in early 2003.
The ad was removed after outcry on both sides of the aisle, particularly from former veterans John McCain and Chuck Hagel.