WASHINGTON – Teresa Heinz Kerry (search) says anger, not ideology, prompted her to become a Democrat. The wife of Sen. John Kerry, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, says her emotion stemmed from the way the Republican Party, to which she had pledged allegiance, treated Democratic Sen. Max Cleland (search) of Georgia in 2002.
Cleland, who lost both legs and an arm as an Army captain during the Vietnam War, lost his re-election bid in a bitter campaign against then-Rep. Saxby Chambliss (search). The GOP had raised questions about Cleland's patriotism because of his position on legislation to create the Department of Homeland Security. Cleland supported the concept behind the department, but insisted that a workers' rights provision be part of the bill.
Heinz Kerry, in an interview to be broadcast Tuesday on the "CBS Evening News," says Cleland's status as a triple amputee is enough to prove his patriotism.
"Three limbs and all I could think was, 'What does the Republican party need, a fourth limb to make a person a hero?' And this coming from people who have not served. I was really offended by that. Unscrupulous and disgusting," she said, her reference being an indirect one to President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney (search).
Neither Republican served in Vietnam. Bush served stateside in the Texas Air National Guard, and Cheney received five student deferments from service during the war.
Kerry volunteered to serve in Vietnam and earned three Purple Hearts, and Silver and Bronze stars for his efforts commanding a swift boat on the Mekong Delta. Earlier in the campaign, opponents of Kerry had raised questions about his military service and whether he deserved the military honors.
Heinz Kerry had been a registered Republican until Kerry, her second husband, announced his bid for the White House. Her first husband, Republican Sen. John Heinz of Pennsylvania and the Heinz prepared foods heir, was killed in a plane crash in 1991. She inherited a fortune estimated at more than $500 million.
In the interview, John Kerry is asked about criticism of his wife, who has a reputation for being blunt and outspoken.
"When it's silly stuff, and a lot of it is incredibly unfactual, I get angry about it," he said.
Asked for three words to describe his 65-year-old wife, who is five years his senior, Kerry said: "Saucy, sexy, brilliant."
She responded: "I'm cheeky, I'm sexy, whatever. You know, I've got a lot of life inside."