Unprepared for their own party’s outrage over the prisoner swap that led to the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, at least three well-known Republicans did what they could to expunge their initial celebrations of the soldier’s rescue.
It didn’t work, as several outlets captured the public praise offered on Twitter and elsewhere by two Republican House members and a GOP U.S. Senate hopeful.
Not long after the White House announced the prisoner exchange on Saturday afternoon, Joni Ernst, tweeting days before she easily claimed the Republican nomination in Iowa’s Senate race, noted the news and offered her “[t]houghts & prayers” to Bergdahl’s family.
According to Politwoops, the tweet was deleted 25 minutes later.
The Upshot’s Derek Willis noticed that Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE) put out a statement and Facebook post on Saturday about Bergdahl’s release before scrubbing them both.
“A grateful nation welcomes the news of the return of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl,” Terry said in the statement. “I have the pleasure of regularly speaking with our nation’s active duty military and veterans and I know that there is nothing more solemn than the pledge to never leave one of their own behind on the field of battle.”
Terry called Bergdahl a “national hero.”
A tweet from Terry’s account remains on his feed, but it contains a link that leads to a page where his now-deleted statement used to exist.
A spokesman for Terry told Mashable’s Brian Ries in a statement, “We’ve heard and learned of some things that are extremely troubling in the last two days and we believed it was appropriate to take it down.”
Rep. Mark Amodei (R-NV) also trumpeted Bergdahl’s release Saturday on Twitter.
“Best news I’ve heard in a long time! #standwithbowe” Amodei said in a tweet that was deleted 15 hours later.
Someone in Amodei’s office told Mashable that the tweet was the result of a spokesperson “expressing happiness in the return of a POW, without knowing the terms of the release or consulting the congressman.”
“When more became known, the post was taken down,” the Amodei representative said.
Republicans almost immediately expressed concern on Saturday that Obama broke the law by approving the release of five Taliban detainees from Guantanamo Bay without consulting Congress. Federal law requires the President to notify Congress within 30 days of such a release.
But the GOP’s anger over the prisoner exchange extends well-beyond the legality of the decision. By Monday, Republicans were questioning the character of Bergdahl and his family.
The soldier’s 2009 disappearance has been the subject of scrutiny for years, with some former members of his platoon asserting that he deserted his unit.
In a Facebook post on Monday, Sarah Palin drew attention to Bergdahl’s stated misgivings with the U.S. military — detailed in a 2012 Rolling Stone piece by the late journalist Michael Hastings — as evidence of his “horrid anti-American beliefs.”
A number of conservatives also went after Bob Bergdahl, criticizing the POW’s father for a now-deleted tweet in which he said he is “working to free all Guantanamo prisoners.”
Some even ridiculed the elder Bergdahl’s scraggly beard, which he grew as a show of solidarity during his son’s five years in captivity.
Fox News host Bill O’Reilly said the beard makes him “look like a Muslim” and noted that Bob Bergdahl “learned to speak Pashto, the language of the Taliban.”
O’Reilly’s fellow Fox host Brian Kilmeade harbors similar concerns about the beard.
“I mean, he says he was growing his beard because his son was in captivity. Well, your son’s out now. So if you really don’t — no longer look like a member of the Taliban, you don’t have to look like a member of the Taliban,” Kilmeade said on Tuesday. “Are you out of razors?”