The Republican National Committee came under fire from prominent Republicans and former GOP members on Monday after it echoed comments made by U.S. President Donald Trump attacking retired Navy Admiral William McRaven.
McRaven ran the famous 2011 Navy SEAL operation that resulted in the death of Al-Qaida leader and September 11th terrorist attacks mastermind Osama bin Laden.
The RNC wrote on Twitter: “Worth noting after recent comments: Retired Adm. William McRaven was reportedly on Hillary Clinton’s short list for Vice President in 2016.
He’s been critical of President Trump - even dating back to the 2016 campaign.
He’s hardly a non-political figure.”
Bill Kristol, an influential Jewish conservative commentator and leader of the so-called "Never Trump" movement, slammed the top Republican body for the tweet: “This is the Twitter account of the Republican National Committee. The Committee doesn't speak for, and unfortunately isn't really accountable to, tens of millions of Republicans across the country. But it might be a good idea for reasonable Republicans to stop supporting the RNC.”
This controversy kicked off when Trump called the retired admiral a "Hillary Clinton fan" and an "Obama backer" during an interview with Chris Wallace on "Fox News Sunday,” inisting McRaven could have killed bin Laden sooner.
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“Wouldn't it have been nice if we got Osama bin Laden a lot sooner than that, wouldn’t it have been nice?” Trump asked host Chris Wallace. " ... Living in Pakistan right next to the military academy, everybody in Pakistan knew he was there."
Kristol's call “for reasonable Republicans” to stop supporting the RNC was quickly echoed by conservative California author and government professor Jack Pitney, who wrote, “As a former RNC staffer, I second that motion!” Pitney himself publicly broke with the GOP in a USA Today op-ed entitled, “I was a Republican until Donald Trump hijacked my party.”
Kristol still identifies as a member of the GOP. Author and historian Max Boot, on the other hand has also publicly left the GOP, wrote, "The entire Republican Party is now attacking a war hero battling leukemia. Have you no shame."
Republican leaders joined in with rebukes of the RNC tweet, but did not publicly condemn the organization - which is the national political arm of the Republican Party and supports Republican candidates with financial support during election cycles.
Florida Senator Marco Rubio wrote, “I don’t know if Adm. William McRaven shares my political views or not.
"But I do know that few Americans have sacrificed or risked more than he has to protect America and the freedoms we enjoy. His military career exemplified honor & excellence. I am grateful for his service.”
Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush, the nephew of former President George W. Bush, wrote: "Having served in Afghanistan with Adm. McRaven, I have personally witnessed his patriotism & love of country. He is an American hero & has always served our country with honor. I’m grateful for his service and sacrifices for our freedom."
Retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who led U.S. forces in Afghanistan from 2009 to 2010, told CNN Monday, “The president is simply wrong. He’s uninformed and he is pushing an idea that I think is not helpful.”
McChrystal connected the incident to Trump’s overall relationship with the military and veterans, saying, “I think there’s a certain honesty to what’s happening now. The president didn’t go to Arlington Cemetery for Veterans Day, and maybe that’s honest because if you really don’t care it would be dishonest to pretend that you do."
Trump has been under increased scrutiny for having not visited active duty U.S. troops abroad while increasing U.S. troop presence abroad in countries like Afghanistan and Syria.