US military protects Americans’ rights ‘to criticize us’: Ret. Gen. Petraeus

Anthony Scaramucci, left, walks with former CIA director retired Gen. David Petraeus as he arrives at Trump Tower for a meeting with Presiden-elect Donald Trump, Monday, Nov. 28, 2016, in New York. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

(ABC News) — Retired four-star U.S. Army Gen. David Petraeus said the military protects Americans’ rights “to criticize us” — an apparently different view than that of the White House press secretary who said it’s “highly inappropriate” to debate a U.S. general.

“We in uniform protect the rights of others to criticize us, frankly,” ret. Gen. David Petraeus told ABC News “This Week” co-anchor Raddatz in an exclusive interview Sunday. “I think we’re all fair game.”

Petraeus was responding to a remark at a Friday media briefing by Trump press secretary Sarah Sanders that it would be “inappropriate” for a reporter to question a claim by White House chief of staff Gen. John Kelly. Sanders was defending Kelly over his claim that Democratic Rep. Frederica Wilson of Florida had in a 2015 speech taken credit for securing federal funding for an FBI building in Miami.

Video of Wilson’s speech obtained by The Sun-Sentinel newspaper appeared to refute Kelly’s account. After a reporter pointed this out to Sanders, the press secretary said, “If you want to go after General Kelly, that’s up to you, but I think if you want to get into a debate with a four-star Marine general I think that’s something highly inappropriate.”

Related Content: Chief of staff John Kelly offers emotional take on fallen soldier controversy

Sanders later sought to clarify her comment, telling ABC News in a statement, “Of course everyone can be questioned, but after witnessing General Kelly’s heartfelt and somber account [of his son’s death in military combat] we should all be able to agree that impugning his credibility on how best to honor fallen heroes is not appropriate.”

Petraeus told Raddatz on “This Week” that he has also been the target of criticism, recalling as an example the publication of a full page ad in The New York Times that attacked him personally on the morning he was testifying on Capitol Hill in September 2007 over the U.S. military surge in Iraq.

“I didn’t appreciate it, needless to say,” Petraeus said. “But at the end of the day, we are fiercely protective of the rights of … Americans to express themselves, even if that includes criticizing us.”

Asked by Raddatz if Kelly’s harsh words about Rep. Wilson were appropriate, Petraeus urged everyone to unite behind Gold Star families and not pull them into political fights.

“It was obviously an unfortunate situation. We need to unite behind our Gold Star families, to embrace them with compassion and support, not to drag them into partisan politics,” he said.

“Sadly this is a bit symptomatic of what I think is afflicting our country right now. Arguably, the most important threat the United States faces is not that of Russia, Iran, North Korea, or even Chinese competition, or ISIS, it’s parochialism here at home, especially in this city” of Washington, D.C., he said.

Petraeus said he knows Kelly well and believes the White House chief of staff will figure out how to “turn down the volume.”

“I have to think that this weekend he’s sitting at home or in the White House trying to figure out how to turn down the volume, how to get this behind us, and how to focus on what really is important to the country over all,” Petraeus said.

WTNH NEWS8 provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review. Also, you can now block any inappropriate user by simple selecting the drop down menu on the right of any comment and selection "Block User" from there.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s