Rep. Brian Mast, R-Fla., an Army veteran and double amputee, called for civil discourse Thursday in response to CNN anchor Jake Tapper questioning his patriotism.
Tapper, who has made a habit of offering his opinion during newscasts, faced intense backlash Wednesday for questioning Mast’s commitment to democracy after the Purple Heart recipient opposed President Trump’s impeachment following last week’s riot on Capitol Hill.
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“OK, the president told you to come to the people’s house, did he tell you to do it violently? Or did he tell you to go there and cheer people on, or what, but it’s worth getting to the bottom of before you rush to judgment and that’s the foundation of democracy,” Mast said during an appearance on “Fox & Friends.”
“I’m gonna say to Mr. Tapper the same thing that half of America is saying right now, hold me to a high standard – don’t hold me to a double standard. And me asking if any of these lawmakers that are about to vote have gone through any questioning, any hearings, have asked any questions of anybody, that’s an appropriate question and it speaks to the foundation of our democracy, it doesn’t diminish it,” Mast continued, adding that he would also tell the CNN anchor that the country needs to heal its divisions through debate.
“We’ve got to get to the point that we’re saying, ‘This is why I think something,’ now I can say, ‘This is why I think you’re wrong,’ and we can have a real debate and hopefully you end up learning something about each other instead of just coming away with two people that are pissed off.”
Mast was then reminded that Tapper questioned his commitment to democracy, and the Republican lawmaker swiftly defended himself without taking any shots at the CNN anchor.
“My commitment to democracy and to my country is unwavering, I love this place so much it literally breaks my heart to see the divide that exists in it, I love our democracy for all of our problems there is no government that I would rather be a part of anywhere in this world, and to strengthen that and keep it strong, we have to ask those questions,” Mast said. “It’s not the opposite of that, where we don’t ask those questions, don’t ask lawmaker, ‘Did you take the time to ask somebody or interview somebody or have a hearing?’ That has to be the foundation of having justice is asking questions and waiting for the answer in silence until somebody gives it to you, or taking their silence as an answer. That’s my response. I love this place.’
The one-sided spat started when GOP lawmakers in the House of Representatives overwhelmingly voted against Trump’s second impeachment, though 10 Republicans did join Democrats to support a resolution of impeachment.
Tapper, who has become one of the most outspoken anti-Trump personalities on the liberal network, slammed Republicans who didn’t back impeachment, suggesting they belong to the “QAnon caucus.”
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He then singled out Mast, who lost both legs in 2010 after stepping on an IED in Afghanistan, over the lawmaker’s argument against impeaching Trump. At the same time, Tapper invoked the Republican’s military service.
“Congressman Brian Mast, a Republican from Florida — who lost his legs, by the way, fighting for democracy abroad, although I don’t know … about his commitment to it here in the United States,” Tapper told a panel before rebutting Mast’s comments.
Tapper, who has prided himself on his support of the troops and veterans, was met with fierce condemnation on social media and critics urging him to apologize.
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Prior to his appearance on “Fox & Friends,” Mast fired back at the CNN anchor via Twitter.
“I lost two legs for @jaketapper’s right to say whatever the hell he wants, but that free speech also protects the Republicans he is so eager to condemn for asking Constitutional questions about the election,” the congressman wrote.
Tapper appeared to double down, replying, “You’re a hero for your service and I’m grateful, as I’ve said before. And yes i question the commitment to democracy of anyone who spread election lies, signed onto that deranged TX AG lawsuit, and voted to commit sedition. You were not just asking questions.”
It’s not the first time Tapper was criticized for treatment of a Republican veteran, as he tried to convince then-Republican congressional candidate Sean Parnell not to run against incumbent Democrat Rep. Conor Lamb in 2019, suggesting that the U.S. Army combat veteran would be better off running in a safer district for Republicans.
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Fox News obtained a Twitter direct message that Tapper sent Parnell after he officially entered the race, which confirmed a Breitbart News report that the CNN anchor attempted to persuade Parnell not to challenge Lamb in the key swing state’s 17th Congressional District.
Parnell didn’t take his advice and challenged Lamb, while Tapper’s actions were slammed as political activism.