Washington, D.C., July 11 – Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) has been receiving much attention in recent weeks in the press as a potential running mate for presumptive Democratic Presidential nominee Joe Biden. Duckworth being on the ticket would be notable for several reasons. If Biden were to choose her as Vice President and win the 2020 Presidential election, Duckworth would be the first woman to serve as Vice President, the first Asian American to be elected as either Vice President or President, and the first person with a visible disability since Franklin Delano Roosevelt to be elected either as President or Vice President. Like many of the 57 million Americans with disabilities, Duckworth was not born with a disability but acquired one later in life.
Prior to her election to the U.S. Senate, Duckworth served in the U.S. Army from 1992 until 2014. In 2004, while serving in the Iraq War as a helicopter fighter pilot, Iraqi insurgents shot down her helicopter using a rocket-propelled grenade. She was severely wounded and lost both her legs due to amputation. In addition, she required surgery on her right arm, which had been broken in the attack. After her surgery and narrowly losing a race for Congress in 2006, she was appointed to serve as Director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs. In 2009, she was appointed to serve as Assistant Secretary of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. She resigned from that position in 2011 in order to successfully run for the U.S. House the following year. After two terms in the House, she successfully ran for the U.S. Senate in 2016, becoming the first Thai American to win a seat in the Senate.
Although born in Bangkok, Thailand to a Thai mother of Chinese diaspora, Duckworth comes from a long line of American military service on her father’s side. Her father Franklin Duckworth was a U.S. Army Captain who served in WWII, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. Duckworth is a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution due to two of her fifth great grandfathers’ service in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War.
On Monday, July 6, on his weeknight evening Fox News program, conservative political commentator Tucker Carlson attacked Duckworth for previous comments made in an interview on CNN regarding taking down statutes of historic Americans who had been slave owners. Carlson said Duckworth “hates America” due to her comments that there “should be a national dialogue” when it comes to discussing whether or not it is appropriate to have statutes for certain American figures and leaders. Duckworth did not come out in favor of removing statutes for prominent American leaders such as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, as she has never advocated such action.
The press coverage of this incident with Tucker Carlson regularly mentions that the Senator is a double amputee and a veteran from the War in Iraq. The general consensus has been that Carlson’s comments were uncalled for due to her military service, including her near death experience that cost her the use of her legs. Even coverage that has been less favorable to Duckworth has acknowledged that Carlson’s comments were unfair and unhelpful. If Duckworth is chosen to be the nominee for Vice President, this reaction coming from both sides on this issue is likely to continue.