NEW YORK (AP) — CNN’s Jake Tapper, under fire for a comment questioning a Republican congressman and combat veteran’s commitment to democracy, said Thursday the criticism is an attempt to change the subject from the attack on the U.S. Capitol.
During coverage of Wednesday’s House vote to impeach President Donald Trump, Tapper referenced U.S. Rep. Brian Mast of Florida, who was among Republicans who voted last week against the certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.
Mast lost both legs in an explosion while serving in the U.S. Army in Afghanistan in 2010. Tapper noted Mast’s sacrifice “fighting for democracy abroad, although I don’t know … about his commitment to it here in the United States.”
That made Tapper an immediate target online and elsewhere. Fox News Channel’s Pete Hegseth, a former U.S. Army National Guard member, called Tapper “an emotional bowl of soup with a serious inferiority complex for veterans and the military.”
Tapper’s comment was “a cheap shot you would expect from a partisan posing as a journalist,” Hegseth said on Fox Thursday.
Tapper, who has been active on veterans issues including organizing a Home For Our Troops celebrity auction last fall, wasn’t backing down Thursday. He said that while he honors Mast’s service, all of those who backed Trump’s effort to overturn the election need to answer for what happened at the Capitol.
“He’s not the only one who was involved in the campaign to tell the Big Lie,” Tapper said in an interview, referencing Trump’s claim that he won the election. “A lot of people were part of it. A lot of people don’t want to be held accountable so I think they want to change the subject.”
Mast, on Twitter, noted Tapper’s right to free speech.
“Jake Tapper can question my commitment to democracy,” he tweeted on Thursday. “That’s his right that I lost two legs defending. I tell you, though: it is unwavering. I love America, and for all the divide right now there is still no country I would rather be part of!”
Mast’s office did not return a message seeking comment.