The top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee apologized Friday after he made an unfounded claim that accused Democrats of being “in love with terrorists.”
“Let me be clear, I do not believe Democrats are in love with terrorists, and I apologize for what I said earlier this week,” Republican Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia tweeted.
Collins had made the incendiary remark in an interview with Fox News’ Lou Dobbs in response to a question about Democrats’ efforts to limit President Donald Trump’s war powers in the aftermath of a US airstrike that killed Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani.
During the interview, Collins went on to claim, also without evidence, that Democrats mourn Soleimani’s death more than they do fallen US service members. No congressional Democrat has mourned Soleimani, whom US officials have blamed for the deaths of hundreds of Americans.
Democratic Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, who lost both of her legs serving in the Iraq War, ripped Collins over the comment.
“I’m not going to dignify that with a response,” she told Brianna Keilar on “CNN Right Now” Thursday. “I left parts of my body in Iraq fighting terrorists.”
In a series of tweets on Friday, Collins went on to say, “The comment I made on Wednesday evening was in response to a question about the War Powers Resolution being introduced in the House and House Democrats’ attempt to limit the president’s authority.”
“As someone who served in Iraq in 2008,” Collins said, “I witnessed firsthand the brutal death of countless soldiers who were torn to shreds by this vicious terrorist. Soleimani was nothing less than an evil mastermind who viciously killed and wounded thousands of Americans.”
“These images will live with me for the rest of my life, but that does not excuse my response on Wednesday evening,” the congressman said, adding, “I remain committed to working with my colleagues in Congress and with my fellow citizens to keep all Americans safe.”
The House approved its Iran War Powers resolution on Thursday in a vote that fell largely along party lines.
Earlier in the week, Trump signaled a de-escalation of tensions with Iran, saying that the longtime US adversary “appears to be standing down” in the wake of its retaliatory attacks against Iraqi bases housing US troops.
Despite the apparent de-escalation, however, Democrats have continued to express alarm over the strike and the administration’s justification in taking the action.
An aide to Collins told CNN that the apology came after the congressman took a step back and saw how his comments about Democrats and terrorists had come off.
Leadership did not talk to him about it, but “he felt like it was something he needed to do.”
The aide said that Collins’ remarks that Democrats were in love with terrorists had come from “a place of emotion” and “when he took a step back and thought about how the comments had affected his Democratic colleagues” he felt like he should apologize. The aide said it was not about Duckworth alone, but his Democratic colleagues as a whole.
This story has been updated with additional developments Friday.