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Speaking at a virtual fundraiser that Duckworth also attended, the presumptive Democratic nominee said it was “disgusting, sickening” of Trump’s circle to question her patriotism and that it was a “reflection of the depravity of what’s going on in the White House right now.”
The back-and-forth began Sunday, when Duckworth was asked on CNN about activists’ demands that statues of George Washington be removed because he owned slaves. Duckworth replied that there should be a “national dialogue on it at some point,” and when pressed further, she added, “I think we should listen to everybody. I think we should listen to the argument there.”
Fox News host Tucker Carlson then attacked Duckworth on his show, calling her “a deeply silly and unimpressive person” and suggesting that she and other Democratic leaders “actually hate America.”
Duckworth, a former Army helicopter pilot who lost both legs in the Iraq War, shot back on Twitter: “Does @TuckerCarlson want to walk a mile in my legs and then tell me whether or not I love America?”
On Tuesday, Trump tweeted a clip of Carlson’s program. His campaign issued a statement from Scott O’Grady, co-chair of Veterans for Trump, and Patrick Brady, a Medal of Honor recipient, charging that “after saying she was open to tearing down statues of George Washington, Tammy Duckworth is now using her military service to deflect from her support for the left-wing campaign to villainize America’s founding.”
The dispute highlighted Republicans’ growing eagerness to draw Biden into a fight on culturally sensitive issues and attack his potential running mates. Some in Trump’s camp view them as better political targets than Biden, who is leading Trump in the polls by a significant margin.
Biden said last week that while statues of Confederate leaders belong in museums and not public places, he does not favor removing statues of Washington, Thomas Jefferson or Christopher Columbus.
The attacks on Duckworth also underlined the challenge facing the Democrats who are jockeying to become Biden’s running mate, with Republicans urgently looking for openings to attack them and highlight any differences they may have with Biden.
Duckworth has emerged as a serious contender in the Biden campaign’s vice presidential search, according to three people with knowledge of the selection process. It was not clear if the latest row with Trump would affect her prospects one way or the other.
At Tuesday’s fundraiser, Duckworth received encouragement from former presidential candidate Andrew Yang. “If Joe has good advice, our next vice president,” he said of the Illinois Democrat. Later, Yang said his support of Duckworth was not an endorsement of her to be Biden’s running mate.
Biden has said he is aiming to pick a running mate by early August and that he will choose a woman. Duckworth, who is of Thai and Chinese descent, is one of several women of color in the running.
The fundraiser, officially called the “American Asian & Pacific Islander Virtual Event With Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Tammy Duckworth and Andrew Yang,” drew 540 participants. In her remarks, Duckworth criticized Trump.
“Instead of trying to bring our country back together, he spent his time defending dead Confederates who took up arms against this nation and engaging in xenophobic and racist language geared towards many Americans, including the Asian American and Pacific Islander community,” she said.
Trump has made a push to preserve Confederate symbols, saying they are part of America’s history and opposing calls by activists to dismantle memorials to those who fought to preserve slavery.
A representative for Trump’s campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Biden’s or Duckworth’s criticism.
Carlson’s broadside offered a potential preview of a line of attack Republicans will likely use in an effort to undercut Biden. The host said on his show that Biden’s running mate will be the “actual presidential candidate” and Biden will be a “figurehead.” He presented no evidence for his claim, but some Republicans contend that at 77, Biden would be a weak and potentially short-term president, an assertion he forcefully rejects.
The statement from O’Grady and Brady said that if Duckworth “can’t defend George Washington, our first Commander-in-Chief, those of us who still respect our Founding Fathers’ immense sacrifice and think America is worth fighting for will hold her accountable for cowering to the far-left fascists in the Democrat Party.”
At the fundraiser, Biden praised Duckworth as a patriot, paying tribute to her moral and physical bravery. “I can’t think of anyone who has shown more courage of both kinds. I really mean it, Tammy,” Biden said. “I’m grateful for you here with me in this fight.”
He added, “You’re the best. I love you.”