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CNN "CNN Newsroom" - Transcript

Interview

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BANFIELD: Yesterday, Walsh told CNN's Wolf Blitzer that he does think that Duckworth is a true hero, but that he doesn't, quote -- or that that doesn't, quote, "command our vote."

Congressman Walsh joins me live now from Chicago.

Sir, you are taking it on the chin for this. Are you regretting making those comments?

WALSH: Oh, God, no, Ashleigh. Look, this is what happens when you've got a congressman that's always out in front of people talking. Look, and every -- you know, those comments were made a week ago at a two- hour town hall with 400 people talking about ObamaCare. And like I do at the beginning of every one of my town halls, I introduce the heroes in our presence, the veterans. Look, I'm not going to back down --

(CROSSTALK)

BANFIELD: Are you saying this is just a slip-up? Are you saying it's just a slip because you --

WALSH: No, no, Ashleigh --

BANFIELD: -- (inaudible)?

WALSH: No, Ashleigh, this wasn't a slip-up. I don't regret anything I said. Understand me. Every man and woman who's worn the uniform is a hero in my book. I've said that thousands of times. I've called Tammy Duckworth a hero hundreds of times.

This is a manufactured issue, because when I'm out there, hey, look, this is the lay of the land out there now. When I'm out there, I'm being taped by Tammy Duckworth's people. They are manufacturing this crisis --

BANFIELD: It doesn't matter whose -- I've got to be honest with you, sir, it doesn't matter who's running the tape. It does not matter who's got the tape.

WALSH: No, it -- Ashleigh, I know it doesn't matter --

BANFIELD: Hold on a second. It's not the only time --

WALSH: And, Ashleigh, I don't --

BANFIELD: -- you've said something like that --

WALSH: Ashleigh --

BANFIELD: You've told "Politico" (inaudible). You told "Politico" this, "What else has she done, female, wounded veteran, eh" -- and I'm paraphrasing, "eh," I'm assuming that --

(CROSSTALK)

BANFIELD: -- what is that?

WALSH: Ashleigh, Ashleigh, Ashleigh, you are paraphrasing. I didn't say, "Eh." What I said was, she's a war hero, but you know what, she's running for Congress. So like I don't know about you, Ashleigh, but hopefully voters think, like every other candidate for Congress, tell us where you stand on issues. And for some --

BANFIELD: Well, she's done that. I'm not sure why you haven't seen that.

WALSH: No, she hasn't, Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: I've got a list here, (inaudible) --

WALSH: No, Ashleigh, she hasn't --

BANFIELD: Do you want to hear it, Congressman? Do you want to hear it or do you just want to rail on me?

WALSH: Hey, Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: I've got the list here.

WALSH: No, Ashleigh --

BANFIELD: She's talking about the Supreme Court health care hearing on June 28th. She talked at length about the contentious climate in Washington on May 2012. She talked about health care reform on 2012. She talked about the economy, food stamps, Pell grants, student loans -- shall I continue --

WALSH: Ashleigh, Ashleigh, Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: Why do you say she doesn't do anything other than talk about her service?

WALSH: Ashleigh, Ashleigh, before just reading all about her talking points, and being there for her, give me a second to talk, all right?

She spends a lot of time talking about her war service. I've asked her to debate me monthly. She won't. I've asked her to get directly in front of voters with me. She won't.

She will not get in front of voters and take questions directly from voters. Because she's a war hero, Ashleigh, that demands our respect. But that doesn't demand our vote. What demands our vote is --

BANFIELD: But it is not respectful, Congressman --

WALSH: -- tell us, here's who I am, here's who --

BANFIELD: It is not respectful for you to --

WALSH: What's not respectful, Ashleigh?

BANFIELD: "Now I'm running against a woman who, my God, that's all she talks about." She did serve for 20 years --

WALSH: Ashleigh --

BANFIELD: She comes from -- let me finish, sir.

WALSH: Ashleigh --

BANFIELD: She comes from a military family; she did lose both of her legs fighting in Iraq. She has done -- and I do have a list -- because I am your opponent in this interview, a list of things that she has actually --

WALSH: No, because --

(LAUGHTER)

BANFIELD: -- accomplished for the government with regard to veterans' affairs.

WALSH: Ashleigh, you're just not my --

BANFIELD: She served in veterans' affairs. Well, let me put it to you this way.

WALSH: Hey, Ashleigh --

BANFIELD: (Inaudible) campaign -- sir, I'm not finished asking my question. You ran --

WALSH: Well, Ashleigh, look, Ashleigh, I'm not going to sit --

BANFIELD: -- talking about respect.

WALSH: -- here --

BANFIELD: In 2000 -- excuse me. In 1996 --

WALSH: -- if you don't let me talk.

BANFIELD: I'm asking you a question. You ran a campaign in 1996 against --

WALSH: Ashleigh, you're going to go back to 1996?

BANFIELD: -- (inaudible) -- Yes, I am.

You were running for the U.S. House of representatives --

WALSH: Well, that's ridiculous. Hey, Ashleigh --

BANFIELD: Do you want to hear this question or not?

WALSH: This campaign is about ObamaCare -- no, I don't want to hear about --

BANFIELD: You ran against (inaudible), 87 years old and you --

WALSH: The voters want to hear --

BANFIELD: -- lit a birthday cake with 87 candles on it to show how old he was --

WALSH: Oh, Ashleigh --

BANFIELD: -- in an attempt to slam his age. Is that respectful of your opponent?

WALSH: No -- Ashleigh, Ashleigh, it was simply to say happy birthday to him. Hey, look, Ashleigh, too many Republicans and Democrats stay in Washington too darned long. If you're 80 or 90 years old and you never come home to your district, you shouldn't be a member of Congress.

Makes sense, no? Look, every candidate for Congress has to be held to the same standard. We all come from different places. This country is about to fall off a financial cliff, Ashleigh. And what voters want to know is, what are you going to do about all this debt? Where are you on ObamaCare? What are you going to do to help small businesses --

BANFIELD: But I just told you that she's speaking in front of voters about ObamaCare, and yet --

WALSH: Ashleigh, she's not in front of voters.

BANFIELD: -- you're (inaudible) constituents and saying all she does is talk about her record as a war hero. And (inaudible).

WALSH: Ashleigh, when was the last time, Ashleigh, you saw her directly in front of voters? When was the last time you saw her in an open public forum in front of voters?

BANFIELD: Well, I'm not on the campaign trail for everybody who is actually running, but I can read up on it. And I'm actually very curious as to why you haven't.

WALSH: But you did plenty of research for her. Ashleigh, you did plenty of research for her (inaudible).

BANFIELD: Because I am challenging you, sir, in your contention that she talks of nothing else.

WALSH: Ashleigh, Ashleigh --

BANFIELD: She does speak of other things.

Yes, Congressman, Congressman. Yes, Congressman.

WALSH: Ashleigh. You ready? She was on TV a month and a half ago. She was asked a question about gay marriage. Do you know what she talked about? Her time at Walter Reed.

Look, I'll say it again. I have respect for her and her service. My thoughts and prayers go out to her, like they do every wounded warrior. But that doesn't demand our vote. Ashleigh, if that's what it took to be -- to get your vote, John McCain, another hero, would be our president. Come on!

BANFIELD: Well, let me ask you about that notion --

WALSH: This election is about what we're going to do about these issues.

BANFIELD: -- you suggested, Congressman, you suggested that the real heroes don't talk about their service. I'm actually working with Dave right now, who's just to the left of my camera, who's a Vietnam War vet, who disagrees with you.

Not everybody talks about their service or doesn't talk about their service because of honor. Sometimes it's just really difficult to talk about your service. And sometimes a lot of vets are very proud to talk about their service.

So who, sir, are you, to suggest for a moment that no one should talk about their service because it's not honorable?

WALSH: No, that's not what I said, Ashleigh. That's not what I said, Ashleigh. I said most veterans I know don't talk about their service or the combat they saw. It's part of what makes those who served so noble. And you know, like I know, most veterans --

BANFIELD: But who are you to suggest that that makes them noble? It makes them noble if they served. Have you served? Have you served?

WALSH: No, no, no -- Ashleigh, that's my opinion. Ashleigh, no, that's my opinion.

BANFIELD: Have you served?

WALSH: Ashleigh, no, that's my opinion.

BANFIELD: Have you served?

WALSH: To me, that's what makes our -- Ashleigh, I'll say it again, no. But, Ashleigh, that's --

BANFIELD: Then who are you to suggest what a veteran's mind is when he or she decides whether or not to talk about his or her service?

WALSH: Oh, Ashleigh, I'm confused. Did you serve in Iraq?

BANFIELD: I've just become a citizen of this country. And you know what, I would like to. I just -- I am perplexed by how you could suggest that it's not honorable --

WALSH: No, let me finish -- Ashleigh, let me finish --

BANFIELD: -- to talk about your service.

WALSH: Let me finish a thought. You didn't serve in Iraq, I didn't serve in Iraq. Does that mean you and I don't have the right to have an opinion about the war in Iraq?

BANFIELD: I would never suggest that I know why my colleague does or does not speak about his Vietnam service.

WALSH: No, Ashleigh, you didn't -- Ashleigh, you didn't answer -- you didn't answer that question.

BANFIELD: I answered your question.

WALSH: Do you have a right to have an opinion? BANFIELD: And you are the politician, sir, who made the comments. I did not make the comments about Tammy Duckworth, and I'm asking you, when you say that it's not honorable to talk about your service out on the campaign trail because it's more honorable to do it the way John McCain did, who are you to suggest why John McCain did not talk about his service? Do you know that it's just out of honor or do you know that perhaps he does not like to talk about it because it's difficult?

WALSH: You know like I know, that most veterans, because they are noble -- and, by the way, Ashleigh, that's my opinion. Just my opinion. You may disagree.

They don't talk about their service and they don't talk about their combat. And you know the ironic thing about this whole conversation? They don't consider themselves heroes. That's for our benefit.

I recognize every man and woman that's served as a hero for our benefit, so we never forget them. They don't call themselves heroes, Ashleigh. That's the beautiful thing about our veterans all of them. don't you agree, Ashleigh?

BANFIELD: For the record, I have never heard Tammy Duckworth call herself a hero. For the record, I have never heard her call herself a hero, but I have heard many other people call her a hero.

WALSH: You've heard many other -- Ashleigh --

BANFIELD: She gave her leg and her arm for our service. I think she has the right to say so --

WALSH: She is a hero.

BANFIELD: (Inaudible) her entire life in service, and her father was a veteran, too, of two wars, so she's lived it. So why can't she talk about (inaudible)?

WALSH: Ashleigh, have you heard -- have you heard -- have you heard any veteran call themselves a hero? Have you heard any of them?

BANFIELD: You are suggesting that -- you know what, we could go back and forth on this, but I'll tell you one thing, sir --

WALSH: No, have you?

BANFIELD: -- I don't want you to suggest for a minute that because you're the Republican and she's the Democrat, that I'm taking her side, as you suggested earlier. When I go up against someone in an interview, I play the adversary.

And in this, I am your adversary and I'm also very proud of any veteran's service, including my colleague standing just to the left of my camera. And I don't think it's for any of us to say why or why not they speak of their service.

WALSH: Have you heard any veteran call themselves a hero? (Inaudible) because they don't. BANFIELD: We're beyond that. And Tammy Duckworth did not call herself a hero.

WALSH: But you can't answer that, can you?

BANFIELD: I answered it. Tammy Duckworth did not call herself a hero.

Speaking about your service does not suggest you are calling yourself a hero. It is a (inaudible) and --

WALSH: I called her a hero.

BANFIELD: -- it is something someone should be able to speak of. And you know, I wish more Vietnam veterans felt like they could get out on a campaign trail and speak about their service, but they didn't feel like they could, because they didn't get the reaction that they should have when they came home, and that's a shame. So I don't think that you should be suggesting that Tammy should be quiet.

WALSH: No, no. Ashleigh, I call her a hero. Let me ask you one more question --

BANFIELD: But don't disdain her campaigning.

WALSH: -- because of that, should she get elected because of that service? Yes or no?

BANFIELD: You know what? She should get elected if her voters like the fact that she has a list of accomplishments, when it comes to tax credits for Illinois businesses, she established the first veteran's caucus, she started up a 24-hour (inaudible) --

WALSH: Yes, Ashleigh, thank you --

BANFIELD: -- don't, stop - 24-hour crisis hotline for veterans. She created the vets cash grant program. She established the nation's first health issue insurance program for vets. She created the GI loan for heroes --

WALSH: Ashleigh --

BANFIELD: You said all she does is talk about it. These are actually accomplishments.

WALSH: When it comes -- when it comes to -- there you go. When it comes to issues, that's why we should elect people. So I'm taking it that, again, you don't think someone who served automatically should get elected when they're running for Congress. It comes to what you've done and where you stand on these important issues of our time.

And right now, Ashleigh, I can tell you, in our district that we're running for, people are losing their homes, they're struggling to get by every day and they're unemployed. What voters want to know is what is Duckworth or Walsh going to do about those things. That's what I'm trying to engage her in, and I wish she would join me in front of voters.

BANFIELD: And the voters will decide and they will use character as well.

WALSH: Absolutely.

BANFIELD: And I thank you very much for being a part of our conversation.

WALSH: Absolutely, Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: Joe Walsh, you're a worthy adversary and I hope we get to talk again at another time, sir.

WALSH: Ashleigh, anytime.

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