John Murtha's Election Opponent Reacts to Controversial Remarks

This is a rush transcript from "America's Election HQ," October 21, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

HEATHER NAUERT, HOST: Congressman Murtha, along with every member of Congress — the House, rather — is up for reelection in two weeks. We are joined right now by his opponent. We'd like you to meet, Lieutenant Colonel William Russell. He is here now to talk about Congressman Murtha and all this stuff he is saying.

So, it sounds like this district is quite a place. He describes it as racist. He describes the old people as being very resistant to change, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

So, what's the reaction that you are hearing from folks there in your district?

LT. COL. WILLIAM RUSSELL, R-PA., MURTHA'S OPPONENT, PA. 12TH DISTRICT: Well, Heather, a lot of people are extremely offended by Mr. Murtha's comments. And they really just demonstrate his departure from that fundamental respect that a congressman owes his constituents.

Video: Watch Heather Nauert's interview

The people here have many, many reasons not to be for Mr. Obama, particularly given this is such a pro-life district, and a district in which the people are extremely independent and self-reliant, and hold closely to those values that allow them to protect themselves and their homes, and particularly when you take Mr. Obama's very staunch pro-abortion stance along with his very anti-gun stance...


RUSSELL: ...and his movements to negate the Castle Doctrine to allow people to defend themselves in their homes.

NAUERT: OK, hold on right there. But what I'm curious about is, what is the reaction by folks? You are talking to people there. How do they feel about having been called rednecks or, at one time, rednecks, as racists — what's the reaction on the part of folks there?

RUSSELL: Well, they are very offended by it. I've heard from many, many people who simply feel that Mr. Murtha has just absolutely lost touch with the values of the district and they really feel it's time for him to move on. And this includes a lot of long-time Democrats who have voted for him for many years.

NAUERT: OK. Now, he's been in the House for 18 years. And one of the things I'm wondering is, you know, there's a lot going on with the economy right now. Is this something that people really care about a lot - - what he is saying about the district, or are they focused on the economy?

RUSSELL: Well, they are focused more on the economy — to be honest — but after 34 years in office, and all the earmarks Mr. Murtha has been bringing here, people realize that our greatest export is our adult children, instead of coal or natural gas.

And so, it's certainly something that is resonating, and it is just one more nail in the coffin of his term in office. People are, once again, they're very offended by his comments, and they really feel he's lost touch in so many ways.

NAUERT: And just real quickly, if Congressman Murtha sounds familiar to a lot of folks out there, that's because he's the same member of Congress who said that marines had killed innocent women and children in Haditha, Iraq back in 2005. He said that they killed them in cold blood. He said that — went and made the rounds on television, even before there was a full investigation into that.

How do you feel about all that, which, by the way, he is being sued now by two former marines?

RUSSELL: Yes. And, well, certainly that was part of my big why of getting into the race. As an Iraq war vet, I was enraged when I heard Mr. Murtha's endorsement of enemy propaganda. And just as he has lost touch with men and women serving in uniform, and, of course, accused the marines of cold-blooded murder, in so many ways, that same loss of touch is now being applied to the district with his words of calling them racists or rednecks.

NAUERT: All right, Bill. We're going to have to leave it there.

RUSSELL: Thank you so much.

NAUERT: Lieutenant Colonel Bill Russell, who is running against Congressman Murtha in that part of Western Pennsylvania. Thank you, sir, for joining us.

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