Minnesota Republicans had some harsh words for Gov. Tim Walz after he labeled the National Guard soldiers who intervened in the Minneapolis riots “19-year-olds who are cooks.”
The comment came after Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey blamed Walz for the late May chaos and said the governor hesitated to send in the Guard during the rioting.
“We expressed the seriousness of the situation. The urgency was clear,” Frey said of Walz in a Monday interview with the Star Tribune.
“He did not say yes,” Frey continued. “He said he would consider it.”
Walz, who didn’t activate the National Guard until the third day of rioting, responded to Frey’s accusations on Tuesday afternoon.
“I don’t think the mayor knew what he was asking for,” he commented. “I think the mayor said, ‘I request the National Guard, whew, this is great. We’re going to have massively trained troops.’ No. You’re going to have 19-year-olds who are cooks.”
The comment prompted widespread criticism from Republican lawmakers, who found the governor’s statement “condescending” and offensive.
“To call the sons and daughters who put themselves on the line that night ’19-year-old cooks’ is nothing short of a slap in the face and a way to deflect political blame. Our guardsmen deserve better,” state Sen. Jason Rarick, R-Pine City, said in a statement released Wednesday.
“Minnesota is fortunate to be home to one of the best National Guards in the nation, and each of its members has been trained rigorously for combat and their job duties. For Gov. Walz to comment that our Guard is comprised of ’19-year-old cooks’ who are not equipped to handle riots in the Twin Cities is entirely disingenuous and condescending,” added Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria.
Sen. Andrew Mathews, R-Princeton, called it “outrageous” for the National Guard, which “successfully quelled the violence after four days of rioting,” to be subjected to “belittling comments from our governor.”
“Minnesotans know that the governor’s response to the Minneapolis riots was an abject failure, by every objective measurement. Instead of accepting responsibility, Gov. Walz is trying to blame the mayor, the Guard, and anyone but himself. His insulting comments about our troops are uncalled for, outright wrong, and deserving of an apology to every Guard member in this state,” Mathews said in a statement.
The governor also received a large amount of backlash online, with many calling him a “disgrace.” He was called out by wounded veteran and former state Rep. John Kriesel, for instance.
Pretty disrespectful comment about our National Guard by the Governor to refer to the entire force as “19 year olds who are cooks.” https://t.co/lTgMKVUm2q— John Kriesel (@johnkriesel) August 5, 2020
“The National Guard are consistently respected where and when they deploy,” commented Sen. Michelle Benson, R-Ham Lake. “They put themselves in harm’s way, understand how to execute a mission, and successfully brought peace back to the city. They deserve the highest esteem.”
Sen. Paul Utke, R-Park Rapids, said the governor’s “shocking” comment was an “egregious insult to the highly trained members of the Guard and the families who support them.”
“The sacrifices of these soldiers and their families should be recognized, and their jobs esteemed by state leadership. This comment is unacceptable from someone who, frankly, knows better,” he added.
Walz, who was a member of the National Guard for more than 20 years, had not responded to the criticism as of Wednesday night.