Hours after new CNN political commentator Sean Duffy questioned the loyalty of National Security Council official Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, CNN anchor Brianna Keilar took aim at her colleague by calling out his “anti-immigrant bigotry” while mocking him over his reality-TV past.
Piggybacking on talking points that had been pushed by other right-wing pundits, Duffy, a former Republican congressman, suggested on Tuesday morning that Vindman—a Ukrainian-American immigrant who is testifying that he reported concerns about President Donald Trump’s infamous July call to the Ukrainian president—was more loyal to Ukraine than to America.
“It seems very clear that [Vindman] is incredibly concerned about Ukrainian defense,” Duffy said during Tuesday’s broadcast of CNN’s New Day. “I don’t know about his concern [for] American policy, but his main mission was to make sure the Ukraine got those weapons. I understand it: We all have an affinity to our homeland where we came from.”
Duffy went on to note that Vindman, who is the NSC’s top Ukraine expert, “speaks Ukrainian” while reiterating that the Iraq War veteran has “an affinity” for Ukraine and “wants to make sure they’re safe and free.” His comments echoed those of Fox News hosts Laura Ingraham and Brian Kilmeade, fellow Trump-boosting cable-news stars.
In response, during her own broadcast, Keilar did not hold back.
“No one who knows what they’re talking about would call that espionage,” she stated. “It is literally Vindman’s job to talk to Ukrainians. And the prevailing view on U.S. foreign policy is the money going to Ukraine is a counterbalance to Russia, a U.S. foe. It’s pretty easy stuff, but not for former Republican Congressman and CNN contributor Sean Duffy.”
Keilar then dunked on Duffy by contrasting his resumé with Vindman’s.
“That is some anti-immigrant bigotry and it’s an odd questioning of patriotism coming from Sean Duffy, the guy who spent part of his 20s on MTV’s The Real World and Real World/Road Rules Challenge while Alexander Vindman spent his on foreign deployments, including one to Iraq where he earned a Purple Heart after being injured by a roadside bomb.”
Duffy, for his part, attempted to walk back his on-air comments on Twitter on Tuesday, stating that Vindman is “an American war hero” while claiming that his larger point is “that Mr. Vindman is an unelected advisor, he gives ADVICE. President Trump sets the policy.”
Duffy has made quite an impression during his short tenure with CNN. In his first two appearances for the network last week, he was chastised on-air for pushing the president’s debunked conspiracy theory that suggests Ukraine was actually behind the hack of the DNC servers. During another segment, fellow CNN contributor and Republican ex-congressman Charlie Dent pointed out that unlike Duffy, “my nose is not a heat-seeking missile for the president’s backside.”