GOP candidate with no military service smears governor's military background

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Republican challenger Eddie Rispone has repeatedly attacked Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, saying he 'hurt the reputation of West Point.'

Ahead of Louisiana's Nov. 16 run-off election for governor, Republican challenger Eddie Rispone attacked Gov. John Bel Edwards (D-LA) on Friday, saying that Edwards, a West Point alum, had "hurt the reputation" of his alma mater by working as a civil attorney after completing eight years as an active duty airborne ranger in the U.S. Army.

When asked whether he regretted his remarks on Sunday, Rispone, a wealthy specialty contractor business executive, said he was just repeating what he'd heard.

In a radio interview last week, Rispone — who did not serve in the military — was asked about Edwards' service. He responded by alleging that Edwards was an embarrassment to the United States Military Academy, the prestigious service academy located in West Point, New York. "Yeah you know I'm disappointed in that, if I have to be candid. I think he's hurt the reputation of West Point. I don't think West Point wants to turn out a bunch of trial lawyers that will say or do anything to stay in power," he said.

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Edwards responded by calling Rispone "desperate" and his attack "offensive."

"I would just point out that Mr. Rispone went to college not to go in the Army. I went to the Army in order to go to college," he shot back, pointing to the fact that he was chosen by his 4,400 fellow West Point cadets to enforce the school's honor code. "When Eddie Rispone was sitting on the board of [the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry] getting special favors from state government, I was jumping out of airplanes at two in the morning," Edwards added.

On Sunday, Rispone was asked if attacking a West Point graduate had been a good move. He responded by claiming he was only repeating what he'd heard from other people.

"I did not attack a West Point grad," he said at a campaign event recorded by American Bridge 21st Century. "What I did, I said 'I've had some West Point graduates come to me and say they're embarrassed about this governor because he will lie, and he lied over and over again. And they asked me about that. If I had to do it over again, I probably wouldn't say it. But I wasn't attacking West Point, that's what the governor said I did."

"I just said that West Point people are not exactly happy with him," he added, blaming the press for "fake news" coverage of the matter.

Louisiana's largest newspaper sharply criticized Rispone's comments in an editorial posted on Friday, saying, "diminishing someone's willingness to defend America in uniform is a disservice to voters who deserve a campaign based on issues, not insults of the armed forces. Rispone owes all veterans who served with honor an apology."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.