(WASHINGTON) — Rep. Joe Walsh’s Facebook page is flooded with negative comments after the Illinois Republican said Tuesday that his opponent, Iraq War veteran Tammy Duckworth, was not a “true” hero because she often makes reference to her military service on the campaign trail.
Duckworth lost both her legs after an RPG attack in Iraq brought down the Black Hawk helicopter she was piloting in 2004.
Walsh has not served in the military.
“My God, that’s all she talks about,” Walsh said of Duckworth’s military career in a video recorded at Walsh’s town hall speech Sunday and posted by Think Progress. “Our true heroes, the men and women who served us, my God, that’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.”
Duckworth’s campaign bio is almost entirely dedicated to her military career. She is currently a lieutenant colonel in the Illinois Army National Guard.
“Congressman Walsh’s comments insult those who sacrificed to make this country free,” Duckworth’s campaign manager Kaitlin Fahey said in a statement. “Tammy is proud of her over twenty years of service with the Army and her family’s legacy of fighting for this country.”
In a statement Tuesday, Walsh insisted that he was not implying that Duckworth is not a hero, but instead criticizing her for speaking only about her military service and not about her policies.
“Of course Tammy Duckworth is a hero. I have called her a hero 100′s of times in the past four months,” Walsh said. “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.
“We are about four months from Election Day and the people of Illinois have no idea where Tammy Duckworth stands on these issues,” he said.
Emily’s List, a group devoted to electing women to Congress, launched a petition against Walsh over his comments Tuesday, saying “if Tammy Duckworth isn’t a hero, then there are no heroes in this world,”
“Tomorrow is a day for all Americans to honor the men and women who fought for our country’s independence. But instead, Joe Walsh is questioning Tammy’s service and sacrifice to this nation,” the group’s executive director, Amy Dacey, wrote in an email to supporters. “I am so completely outraged about this, and I am sure you are too.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Tal Kopan and Evan Perez, CNN
Stephen Collinson, CNN
Nate Sunderland, EastIdahoNews.com