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CNN "The Situation Room" - Transcript

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Just yesterday, Walsh released a statement clarifying he does think Duckworth is a hero, but he doesn't quite apologize, adding, "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."

Now Duckworth is more than happy to fight back.

TAMMY DUCKWORTH (D), ILLINOIS CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: He's just trying to shift the focus away from the fact that he's done nothing in his two years in Congress other than be an extremist loud mouth for the Tea Party.

BOLDUAN: This isn't Duckworth's first run for Congress. Despite support from then-Senator Obama and high-profile veterans like Senator John Kerry, Duckworth lost a House run in 2006.

REP. JOE WALSH (R), ILLINOIS: Look, this isn't... BOLDUAN: Walsh, a Tea Party conservative, has earned a reputation for making controversial remarks during his two years in office.

LYNN SWEET, "CHICAGO SUN-TIMES": One of the things that's going on in the 8th Congressional District race is that the Duckworth campaign and her Democratic allies are taping everything that Joe Walsh says. Now this is standard operating procedure in most campaigns nowadays anyway, but it's especially so since Joe Walsh speaks very candidly and often provocatively.

BOLDUAN: In May he said Democrats strive to make minorities dependent on the government.

WALSH: They want Hispanics to be dependent upon government, just like the African-Americans depended upon government. That's their game.

BOLDUAN: Walsh also took heat back in September for boycotting the president's big jobs speech before Congress. Right here in THE SITUATION ROOM we asked the congressman why he wouldn't show up.

WALSH: We're beyond speeches. Again, respectfully, it seems like all this president does is try to give a good speech. I don't want to be a pawn in that.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BOLDUAN: Now, keep in mind, they are fighting for a new seat representing the northwest suburbs of Chicago, created as part of the redistricting efforts that are really taking place nationwide.

And right now, Wolf, the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, I spoke with them today. And they called it the surest Democratic pickups in races across the country.

BLITZER: That Tammy Duckworth will beat Joe Walsh, that's what they're suggesting?

BOLDUAN: That's their prediction, right there.

BLITZER: Let's bring Joe Walsh is joining us from Chicago.

Congressman, thanks very much for coming in. Do you regret what you said about your opponent, who lost two legs fighting for the United States in Iraq, that she's not, in your words, a true hero?

WALSH (via phone): No, not at all, Wolf. It's good to be with you, happy Fourth.

Look, I've called Tammy Duckworth a hero probably hundreds of times. Any man and woman, and I've been on the record, any man or woman who wears the uniform and serves this country is a hero. I've said that repeatedly at all the town halls I've had. I don't know what the story is here. I think the other side is trying to manufacture a story. And let's be honest, everywhere I go, Tammy Duckworth's campaign tapes me. I'm out all the time. I probably hold more town halls than any member of Congress. Tammy Duckworth doesn't get out. All she does is film me, and a couple liberal blogs put this out, and they spread it around. I don't see at all what the story is here.

BLITZER: Let me just...

WALSH: Every veteran is a hero.

BLITZER: Let's just clarify, then, Congressman. Do you believe Tammy Duckworth is a true hero?

WALSH: Oh, my gosh, yes! And I've said that repeatedly.

Wolf, the thing that was making me sick, she is a hero. And that demands our respect. But it doesn't demand our vote. And I don't find it -- look, all she does, guys, is talk about her service. Voters in this district want to just have an inkling of where she stands on the issues, and she never, ever gets directly in front of people.

David Axelrod and Rahm Emanuel drew this district for her. She's their candidate, and they are keeping her away from voters. And I want to know where she stands on issues. I salute her service, but my God, the voters want to know if she has any thoughts on any of the issues.

BOLDUAN: Congressman, you are a smart man. You have been in politics. You're finishing your two years in Congress now. You had to have known that, in questioning something that is beloved by so many Americans, military service, that this was a touchy subject, a risk. I mean, was that a mistake, because you are in a tough re- election battle here?

WALSH: No -- Kate, well, I'll agree with you there. I am in a tough re-election battle because the Democrats drew a district to elect Ms. Duckworth. There's no doubt I've taken a challenge on, but no, my God, I've said that before.

Understand the concept, guys. I am always out there speaking in front of voters, and I'm always being taped. I know that. And I think part of what they're trying to do here is to get me to be silent.

Look, I salute her service. I continually salute her service. But if that's all she runs on, voters are going to find that offensive. I said too many veterans come up to me quietly over the last two or three months and say, "I wish she'd quit talking about that." Veterans don't -- you guys know veterans don't talk about their service. They're so private about it.

And I'm always being taped. I know that. And I can see what they are trying to do here, to get me to be silent. Look, I salute her service and continue to salute her service, but if that's all she runs on, voters are going to find that offensive. I've had too many veterans come up to me quietly over the last two or three months and say, I wish she would quick talking about that. Veterans don't, you guys know, veterans don't talk about their service. They are so private about it.

BLITZER: A lot of veterans do talk about their service. They are very proud of their military service. And I'm sure Tammy Duckworth is one of them, very proud of what she's accomplished.

WALSH: Yes, but Wolf, they don't -- Wolf, they don't throw it in your face. You knew John McCain. You know veterans running for office. They don't throw it in your face. And they at least can move beyond that and tell you why they want to be a congressman or -woman. And I can tell you, there's a lot of frustration in this district, because Tammy Duckworth won't do that.

BLITZER: We've invited, by the way, Tammy Duckworth to join us here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Unfortunately, she couldn't on this Fourth of July, but she's got an invitation to come on, and we'll talk about some of these issues.

I'm glad we did clarify, Congressman Walsh, your point where you are saying right now, flatly, you do believe Tammy Duckworth, your opponent -- you disagree with her on a lot of issues -- but you do believe that what she did in Iraq as a U.S. military personnel, as a U.S. member of the U.S. military, that she is, in fact, a true hero.

WALSH: Absolutely, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you.

WALSH: Absolutely.

BLITZER: Congressman Walsh, thanks very much for coming in.

WALSH: Thank you.

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