MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace said Tuesday that Fox News and CNN pundits who suggested that Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, an official on the National Security Council, is disloyal and possibly a spy, are “chickens.”
Vindman, whose family emigrated to the U.S. from Soviet Ukraine in 1979, when he was 4, is a veteran of the Iraq War and a Purple Heart recipient. He testified before Congress Tuesday about a phone call in which Donald Trump attempted to pressure the Ukrainian president to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, calling the effort “inappropriate.”
Prior to his testimony, several conservative commentators appeared to insinuate that Vindman is disloyal and may be a traitor. Among them were former Bush administration official John Yoo, Fox News host Laura Ingraham, and CNN commentator Sean Duffy.
Yoo, best known for writing the Bush administration’s legal justification for using torture, said during an appearance Monday on Ingraham’s show that “Some people might call” Vindman’s contacts with the Ukrainian government “espionage.”
Meanwhile Duffy, a former Republican congressman, said Tuesday on CNN that “I don’t know about his concern [for] American policy, but his main mission was to make sure the Ukraine got those weapons. I understand it: We all have an affinity to our homeland where we came from.”
About those exchanges, Wallace said: “Except those people aren’t chickens— like the three of you, and they know that he passed a background check that the president’s daughter and son-in-law didn’t.”
Wallace then introduced her next guest, former U.S. ambassador to NATO Nicholas Burns.
“Will you just cut through this lunacy?” she asked. “We don’t even always get on the air with all the smears and all the debasement. We try not to amplify Donald Trump’s attacks, and certainly not [Ingraham’s], but what’s happening?”
“Shameful behavior by those people attacking Lt. Col. Vindman’s patriotism,” Burns responded.
Some Republican lawmakers have defended Vindman.
“We’re talking about decorated veterans who have served this nation, who put their lives on the line. And it is shameful to question their patriotism, their love of this nation, and we should not be involved in this process,” said Liz Cheney, the representative for Wyoming and third-ranking House Republican, according to Politico.
“That guy’s a Purple Heart,” South Dakota Senator John Thune also told Politico. “I think it would be a mistake to attack his credibility.”
Yoo, who was found guilty of war crimes in absentia by a court in Malaysia in 2012, said in a statement Tuesday that he didn’t intend to accuse Vindman of “committing the crime of espionage.”
“I have tremendous respect for a decorated officer of the U.S. Army and a veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Yoo said. “I meant to say that this sounded like an espionage operation by the Ukrainians.”
Watch the clip above.