Iowa Republicans criticize Senate candidate Michael Franken’s objection to anti-Biden flag

By: - July 1, 2022 5:07 pm

Democrat Michael Franken's remarks about an anti-Biden "Let's go Brandon" display and a profane flag sparked conflict in Iowa's U.S. Senate race. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Michael Franken said he did not serve his nation as a U.S. Navy admiral for a person flying a profane anti-Biden flag that he spotted on the campaign trail this week. Republicans said that means he doesn’t respect freedom of speech.

Franken spoke Thursday during a campaign stop about seeing the flag, which read “Let’s Go Brandon” and “F*** Biden,” while driving to Sumner, Iowa. After seeing it, he said he wrote to the town’s mayor to ask about the flag.

“I speak for all veterans, categorically speaking, not for that person,” Franken said. “I did not serve my nation for him, or her or whoever lives there. Shame on, shame on your town for that. I was going to stop at your VFW, and I decided to keep on riding.”

The Iowa GOP held a press call Friday, criticizing the candidate’s remarks.

House Majority Leader Matt Windschitl served in the U.S. Marine Corps, completing one tour of Iraq in 2005. He those who enlist in the military swear to uphold the Constitution, and everyone within America. Not respecting a person’s right to fly a flag means Franken is not respecting the oath to serve the public in the military or in public office, he said.

“Shame on you for having a differing opinion? Shame on you for expressing your First Amendment rights?” Windschitl said. “I mean, you can agree or disagree with the flag, what it stands for, what it says, that was being flown. But you don’t get to pick and choose and say ‘I’m not going to come to your town.’”

Windschitl said he would not fly the flag in his own yard, but that Franken’s response showed he was not willing to support people’s right to express political opinions he disagrees with.

“In his statement, he wasn’t just condemning the flag, he was condemning the whole town,” he said.

The Iowa GOP posted on Twitter about the exchange and commented: “What an ego.”

“Yes, an ego for civility,” Franken responded in a tweet.

Franken campaign manager Julie Stauch said the GOP attack is an effort to shift focus away from criticisms of his opponent, longtime U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court decisions on abortion ruling and environmental regulation.

“We begin our Independence Day weekend knowing that Grassley and the Republicans are already scared of Mike Franken,” Stauch said in a statement. ” They are are desperately attacking Mike’s nearly 40-year service to his country with sad and weak insults. Thank you to the Republicans for confirming that Mike Franken is a formidable opponent.”

Franken has talked about his commitment to bipartisanship on the campaign trail. During the Democratic primary election, he argued he was the best candidate to draw Republicans and independents away from Grassley in the November election.

But Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Jeff Kaufmann said the candidate’s comments showed why Grassley is the right choice to represent Iowa, highlighting his annual 99-county tour.

“He doesn’t pick and choose, he goes to counties and they are lined up and there are people in that crowd that have one goal, and one goal only, and that is to play ‘gotcha’ with him,” Kaufmann said. “And Chuck Grassley is in there every single time. All counties, all people.”

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Robin Opsahl
Robin Opsahl

Robin Opsahl is an Iowa Capital Dispatch reporter covering the state Legislature and politics. They have experience covering government, elections and more at media organizations including Roll Call, the Sacramento Bee and the Wausau Daily Herald.