During Wednesday’s impeachment debate on Capitol Hill, CNN’s Jake Tapper appeared on CNN’s State of the Union, hosted by Dana Bash, to discuss the day’s events, as well as the January 6 riot at the Capitol and claims of election fraud. He took the opportunity to question the patriotism and “commitment to democracy” of Rep. Brian Mast, R-Fla., a disabled Afghanistan war veteran.
During the on-air discussion, Bash and Tapper brought up the subject of Mast’s question during the impeachment debate on the House floor as to whether any of the rioters in fact claimed they had been invited to do so by President Trump.
Here’s the discussion that ensued:
BASH: “But the other thing that I think is really, really important is the fact that we have video, and I was just watching it as they were starting this vote, of the people who were storming the Capitol saying the President told us to come here. “
TAPPER [LAUGHING]: “Right. “
BASH: “That is happening. I mean, that is video. There’s video of this. It is just exhibit A of the reams of evidence that we have. There’s one other thing I wanted to share —”
TAPPER: — “…just one other thing. That’s relevant — What you’re saying is relevant because Congressman Brian Mast, a Republican from Florida, who lost his legs, by the way, fighting for democracy abroad, although I don’t know what his — I don’t know about his commitment to it here in the United States. He said, did anybody say that?” (emphasis added)
In other words, Tapper called out Mast, a disabled Afghanistan war veteran, for lacking a commitment to democracy. That statement was not going to go unchallenged for long.
Another Congressman, Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Ark., came to the defense of Mast on Twitter: “Representative Mast, along with myself and many others in Congress and across the country, served in the military so Americans can have freedom of speech, regardless of how repulsive or disgusting it may be.”
Instead of apologizing, Tapper doubled down on his criticism with a tweet of his own: “Rep Mast is a hero and has my eternal gratitude for his service, and as I said on air there are principled reasons to oppose impeachment. But there are no principled reasons to spread election lies and vote to disenfranchise millions of Americans based on those lies.”
“2/ I get that Trump-supporting officials want to change the subject from Sedition and incitement. But however much I focus on honoring veterans in my coverage and more doesn’t mean those who served who undermine the very democracy they fought for didn’t try to undermine democracy.”
Rep. Mast then responded to Tapper’s statement 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.”
Tapper responded: “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.”
Photo from JOSHUA ROBERTS/REUTERS