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Representative Zinke Continues to Exploit the Death of an American Soldier

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Back in January, I called out Representative Zinke for politicizing the death of an American serviceman in Afghanistan. Zinke, despite receiving contrary information from the Secretary of Defense, despite not having any evidence of his claims, and despite the knowledge that the soldier’s family was still grieving, asserted that Staff Sergeant Matthew McClintock had been killed in “another Benghazi,” blaming the Obama Administration for the young man’s death.

Zinke thundered that he would demand hearings into the case, but apparently soon realized it was easier to fundraise on lies. Today, he’s back on the wingnut media circuit, claiming with no new evidence and without having held that hearing, that the White House allowed Army Green Beret Sergeant First Class Matthew McClintock to die. He tells Fox News:

Due to the Obama administration’s fear of collateral damage, the gunship was initially waived off. The “quick” reaction force (QRF) was also delayed by hours. Although one of his fellow soldiers was able to keep him alive through the night, by the time the QRF and Medevac arrived about twelve hours later, it was too late. SFC McClintock died in the helicopter. The Taliban may have killed SFC McClintock, but the White House failed to save him.

Just how much bullshit is there in that statement? It’s the exact same, bullshit, unsourced story Zinke was peddling in January. This is the information a veteran and member of Congress used to justify accusing American generals and White House Officials of letting an American soldier die on the battlefield:

Heather Swift, a spokeswoman for the congressman, declined comment when asked whether Zinke’s sources were active duty in Afghanistan or others who passed on second and third-hand information.

He won’t even confirm that his information is from third-hand reports, but he’s still pitching the same story.

Why now? Well, March 31st is the end of another quarterly fundraising cycle, and nothing fires up the conservative small donors than telling them on Fox News that the Muslim in the White House killed an American serviceman. And that’s all this is: a cynical, self-serving ploy to raise campaign cash.

Though he sits on the House Armed Services Committee, Zinke hasn’t done anything but spread these malicious rumors. No hearings. No investigations. No real interest in anything other than Zinke promoting Zinke.

Staff Sergeant McClintock seems like he was an ideal American soldier, one who served three tours in Afghanistan and one who lost his life trying to save a comrade. His wife, unlike Zinke, “thanked her husband’s teammates for “doing everything they could to bring Matthew home to us.” Though Congressman Zinke didn’t mention it in his self-serving statement, the family established a GoFundMe account for the family, one that has raised over $140,000 in two months. It’s a tragedy for this family to have lost someone so young, but almost incomprehensibly cynical for a veteran and member of Congress to exploit their grief for political notoriety. That’s Ryan Zinke, though.

One other problem for Zinke is that, unlike the Congressman, the Defense Department did investigate—and found that his claims were well, lies. As Military.com reported back in January, McClintock’s team was supported by both 100 ground troops dispatched “immediately” and air support:

“The AC-130 was able to respond very quickly and provide that support” along with 12 airstrikes by other aircraft that killed dozens of Taliban, Ryder said. Ryder also denied that a quick reaction force on the ground was delayed for hours until nightfall after Army Special Forces Staff Sergeant Matthew Q. McClintock was killed and two other U.S. troops were wounded. He said that a joint force of about 100 Afghan and U.S. troops already on the ground was immediately formed and went into action.

It’s abundantly clear that Representative Zinke is far more interested in promoting his own political career by launching partisan bombs at President Obama than he is in acting in the best interest of grieving families. After all, though you never read it in the mainstream Montana press, he’s the SuperPAC operator who called for President Obama to be brought up on criminal charges for exposing Navy SEAL Team 6’s role in the killing of Osama bin Laden even though Zinke himself called news outlets across the country to promote himself and out his former team before bin Laden’s body hit the floor in Abbottabad. He even sent out a campaign e-mail suggesting that he had killed bin Laden himself.

Hell, he was so upset that another Montana Special Operator was receiving publicity for having behaved bravely in that bin Laden raid that he attacked Butte’s Rob O’Neill, who is credited with killing bin Laden.

Zinke’s boorish behavior and profound dishonesty, not to mention his willingness to exploit grieving families, is something that the mainstream Montana press has chosen to ignore. They’ve covered for him when he joked about torturing people, ignored his affiliation with wannabe insurrectionists, and pretended that his frequent bombastic, inaccurate and wildly inappropriate appearances in the conservative noise machine are somehow acceptable for a member of Congress who should be representing the best values of the state. They’ve run op-eds from Zinke attacking the President for not using ground forces against ISIS, even though Zinke has argued both for and against ground troops in the conflict.

While I understand that Zinke’s position as a former veteran makes it commercially challenging to write critical stories about the man, the press can’t keep ignoring his frankly absurd and vitriolic views, and they certainly shouldn’t keep giving him a platform from which to spew his dishonest attacks. Just once, instead of sending a reporter to a staged, pro-Zinke event in which the Congressman called those receiving veterans’ benefits “economic slaves,” perhaps the state’s largest paper could run to Google and fact check a statement or two—or ask why a member of Congress, one who thought he had the influence to run for Speaker—is demagoguing instead of investigating this case.

Congressman Zinke is not the Member of Congress representing Breitbart News. He’s not the Representative from Fox News. He’s not even the legislative voice of the autonomous and delusional Kingdom of Zinke. He’s been elected not only to represent Montana in his votes, but to represent Montana in her values. That he continues to use the sacrifice of American servicemen and women to line his campaign coffers and chooses to denigrate the Commander in Chief with the vilest, untruthful attacks is an affront to the service of those who have given so much in their military service and affront to the uniform he hides behind in his campaign ads.

Isn’t it finally time for the mainstream press in Montana to call him out for his behavior? If not, when will it be?

If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we would certainly appreciate it.

About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is an eighteen-year teacher of English, former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.
His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.
In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

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  • as a disabled Vietnam veteran that suffers from PPTS I found Rep.Zinke’s remarks Tuesday March 29 very disturbing. He warned veterans to be wary of becoming overly dependent on government services specifically about the Department of Veterans Affairs . This is were he referred to economic slavery. He stated PTS veterans should be required to get therapy and get a job. Unreal statement from fellow veteran let alone our Montana congressman . He clearly does not understand PTS. Is this statement a thinly veiled threat that he supports cuts to veterans program. I actually voted for him in primary and General election. Even thought I have PTS I was fortunate to be able to work 37 years in healthcare. Some veterans with PTS are not able to work and should not be punished for this. Rep. Zinke continues to daily remind us of being a navy seal maybe we should remind him he represents all Veterans of Montana .

  • What is wrong with this guy? I’m sickened beyond belief that it was Zinke who was blabbing about operational secrets in order to make the Obama administration look bad! He knows enough people to be able to get the inside scoop on military operations! There is always an option to talk but, most people don’t! Especially, a Representative of the Government! This guy is bad news and breaking protocol for his position! ZINKE & his comments on Veterans and PTSD is beyond Evil! His behavior is disgusting and uncalled for by a Congressional Member. Why does the media let him get away with this farce? His constitutes have a right to know about Zinke. How he has disrespected Veterans and used tragedies to fund his own interests!

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