GOP Senate hopeful J.D. Hayworth, locked in a tough primary fight against Sen. John McCain, flubbed a key historical fact last week, asserting wrongly that the United States never declared war on Germany in World War II.
The gaffe came as Hayworth responded Thursday at a Phoenix Republican club to a question about how the U.S. came to fight armed conflicts like those in Iraq and Afghanistan without formal war declarations by Congress. Hayworth, a former congressman, voted in 2002 to authorize the use of force in Iraq without such a declaration.
“The war that Dwight Eisenhower led in Europe against the Third Reich was never declared by the United States Congress,” Hayworth said in his response, which was broadcast live on the Internet and later posted on YouTube.
He correctly noted that the U.S. initially declared war only on Japan following the Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor. Hayworth also correctly said that Germany declared war on the U.S. a few days later.
But he missed the fact that the Americans immediately reciprocated with a declaration of war against Germany.
On Tuesday, McCain’s campaign fired back with a Web video lambasting the former congressman, who is challenging McCain from the right in the Aug. 24 primary. Hayworth’s “failure to understand the basic details of such a major event betrays his tenuous grasp on American history,” McCain spokesman Brian Rogers said.
During the Thursday event, Hayworth did agree with the questioner that someone should check the details. He later added, “But as I recall from my history, Germany declared war on the United States, not vice versa.”
His spokesman, Mark Sanders, released a statement pointing out that the video shows Hayworth saying additional research might be needed.
Responding to the Web video Tuesday, Sanders said McCain’s camp is trying to “distract voters from the real issues” and the senator needs to debate the former congressman “and let the people decide.”
Hayworth was in the U.S. House for 12 years until he lost to Democrat Harry Mitchell amid a Democratic wave in 2006.