Sen. Tammy Duckworth, a US Army veteran who lost both her legs while serving in Iraq, issued her strongest response yet to President Donald Trump and conservative TV host Tucker Carlson on Friday, calling them “self-serving, insecure men” after they questioned her patriotism.
Duckworth, an Illinois Democrat, has emerged as a top vice presidential candidate and has been the target of right-wing attacks, led by Carlson and echoed by Trump’s campaign, after she called for a “national dialogue” about whether to take down statues of slave-owning Founding Fathers such as former President George Washington. Her pushback in a New York Times op-ed on Friday offers a potential glimpse into how she would acquit herself against questions from conservatives that the Democratic Party’s leadership is beholden to far-left groups.
Visit CNN’s Election Center for full coverage of the 2020 race
“Attacks from self-serving, insecure men who can’t tell the difference between true patriotism and hateful nationalism will never diminish my love for this country – or my willingness to sacrifice for it so they don’t have to. These titanium legs don’t buckle,” she wrote.
Duckworth lost both her legs during the Iraq War in 2004, when a rocket-propelled grenade hit the helicopter she was co-piloting. She was awarded the Purple Heart and she eventually retired from the Illinois Army National Guard as a lieutenant colonel.
An Asian American, Duckworth accused Carlson and Trump of employing “racist insults” because “they’re desperate for America’s attention to be on anything other than Donald Trump’s failure to lead our nation.”
She argued that the President’s focus on whether she is “sufficiently patriotic” is to divert from the more than 130,000 lives lost to coronavirus and a New York Times report that Russians offered bounties to Taliban militants in Afghanistan to kill US troops.
Carlson on his show Monday night pointed to Duckworth’s comments as evidence she is among Democrats who purportedly “hate America.” He double-downed Tuesday, calling her a “coward,” “fraud” and a “callous hack.” The Trump campaign claimed Duckworth is using “her military service to deflect from her support for the left-wing campaign to villainize America’s founding.”
View 2020 presidential election polling
Duckworth wrote in her Times op-ed that she does not “want George Washington’s statue to be pulled down any more than I want the Purple Heart that he established to be ripped off my chest. I never said that I did.”
“But while I would risk my own safety to protect a statue of his from harm, I’ll fight to my last breath to defend every American’s freedom to have his or her own opinion about Washington’s flawed history,” she said. “What some on the other side don’t seem to understand is that we can honor our founders while acknowledging their serious faults, including the undeniable fact that many of them enslaved Black Americans.”
CNN’s Oliver Darcy, Caroline Kelly and Sarah Mucha contributed to this report.