MANKATO - U.S. Rep. Tim Walz's campaign for Minnesota's 1st Congressional District is refusing to apologize for claiming his Republican opponent Allen Quist said he would cut veteran benefits. The refusal comes in the wake of Quist holding a three-city press tour Tuesday, during which he publicly demanded a retraction and apology.
Walz's claim came during the first debate between the two candidates on Sept. 27 in Byron. Walz asserted the claim three times during the debate. Quist challenged the claim, but Walz responded that he had video proof.
After the debate, the Walz campaign sent out an e-mail pointing to the TPT Almanac debate between Quist and Mike Parry last July. During a broader discussion about cuts to balance the federal budget, the host lists off entitlements to discuss. Quist says to add veteran benefits to the list. The Walz e-mail ends on that line. In the next moment of the video, Quist explains that he wants to protect all entitlements and defense spending by balancing the budget.
Staff photo by Josh Moniz
Republican candidate for 1st District Congress Al Quist speaks at a press conference Tuesday in Mankato.
Quist said the claim deserved a press conference because Walz made it publicly and then doubled down on it. He said that it was very unlikely that he would ever have made the claim and not remembered it because it does not conform with his belief. He said he considers entitlements like Social Security and veteran benefits an unbreakable contract between the U.S government and its people. He said his proposal to reduce the deficit by $1 trillion through $200 billion in spending cuts for five years comes with the presumption that no entitlements would be cut.
"I can't tolerate falsehoods being on the table," said Quist.
Quist said he was willing to consider the claim a mistake by Walz if he issued a public apology. He said that if Walz didn't apologize, he would consider the claim made with malicious intent.
Later that day, Walz's campaign communication director Tony Ufkin responded. This was the first communication to media over the statement since the first debate.
"Tim Walz will never apologize for fighting for veterans and their families. This isn't about Mr. Quist's feelings. Tim Walz has a strong bipartisan record of standing up for the brave men and women who have fought for our freedom," said Ufkin.
Quist expressed disappointment that the Walz campaign refused to issue an apology. He pointed to an earlier incident in the campaign when he denied that he had compared the MSU gay counseling center to the KKK and that he had said men were "genetically predisposed" to run households back in the 1980s. He said that once he realized he was wrong, he admitted it and apologized.
"The right thing for Mr. Walz to have done would have been to apologize," said Quist, "He can no longer claim ignorance. He has misled the public, and they should question if they can trust him."
Quist said that Walz's decision will have consequences in the election, particularly because their upcoming Oct. 9 debate in Mankato will discuss veterans' issues.
What remains to be seen is whether this political dust-up will have any impact on the Walz campaign. It comes at a very interesting time with the upcoming debate on veterans and only five weeks before the election. The event has at least overshadowed two pieces of positive news for Walz that came out Tuesday.
First, Walz again received the endorsement of the National Rifle Association.
Second, Minnesota Public Radio reported that the DCCC had pulled funding and ad time planned of the Walz campaign because they considered his race "safe." The $3 million in funding was shaved down to $260,000. The reduced funds and reserved airtime will be put towards other DFL races in the state.
Quist said he does not believe that the DCCC will actually reallocate funds, stating that he believes they are saying it only to score political points.
(Josh Moniz can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org)