Vets Demand Apology After Tense Clash in GOP Debate

2 Senate candidates in Ohio almost came to blows
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 21, 2022 2:23 PM CDT

A near-physical altercation in the Republican primary for US Senate in Ohio led to a demand Monday from some military veterans that one candidate apologize for saying a rival who did two tours in Iraq never served in the private sector and didn't know anything about business. The heated argument came during a debate Friday with five candidates running for the GOP nomination to replace the retiring Republican Sen. Rob Portman, the AP reports. The debate became intense almost as soon as it began as former state treasurer Josh Mandel attacked investment banker Mike Gibbons' business dealings in his opening remarks. Soon, the two were standing face to face on the debate stage, shouting at each other as the moderator tried to keep their argument from further escalating.

Mandel accused Gibbons of "making millions" off stock in a Chinese company, and Gibbons dismissively accused Mandel of not understanding how investments work. "You’ve never been in the private sector in your entire life," Gibbons charged. "You don’t know squat."After rising from his seat, Mandel shouted, "Two tours in Iraq. Don’t tell me I haven’t worked!” "Back off, buddy, or you’re going to end up...," Gibbons told him, not finishing the sentence. "You’re dealing with the wrong dude." "No, you’re dealing with the wrong guy," Mandel countered. "You watch what happens." Candidate JD Vance, a venture capitalist and author of Hillbilly Elegy, appeared unimpressed.

"Sit down. Come on," Vance said, sitting in a row with the remaining candidates. "This is ridiculous." Vance, who is also a military veteran, later slammed Mandel as "disgraceful” for using the Marine Corps as a "political football," drawing loud applause from the crowd. But 15 veterans backing Mandel wrote an open letter Monday saying they were "disgusted beyond belief" at Gibbons' comments. "Gibbons owes Josh and all veterans and those currently in the service an apology, (for) implying that ‘WE’ who served our country honorably and faithfully, never earned our way working in the private sector," they wrote. "We all volunteered to serve our country away from our families, putting our lives in danger, so people like Mike Gibbons could make millions."

(Read more Ohio stories.)

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